This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Friday, 11 April 2014

Word To Use Today: tarsier.

Here's one of your long-lost cousins:

You may not recognise the tarsier as a member of your family, but that's probably because, although they used to live in Asia, Europe and North America, now they only live on a few South East Asian islands such as the Philippines, Borneo, and Sumatra.

(By the way, if you're thinking this smaller range is a sign of failure then you need to remember that our kind of primate, the human, has been around for about a quarter of a million years, as opposed to the tarsiers forty five million. Still feel quite so smug, do you?)

Now, there are several types of tarsier, so how do you tell one from another?

Well, one way is by looking at where the tarsier lives; then there's its shape. But one of the best ways of deciding to which species a tarsier belongs is by listening to it.

Basically, each species of tarsier speaks a different language. Isn't that brilliant?

What else is terrific about a tarsier? Well, almost everything. Each of a tarsier's eyeballs is as big as its brain. Its third finger is as long as its upper arm. Most of its fingers have nails, but the second and third toes of the hind feet have claws.

File:Tarsius Syrichta-GG.jpg
photo by Jasper Greek Golangco

Tarsiers are the only primates (that means monkey-like animal) that eats only meat (though when I say meat, that does include lots of insects). They have the longest hind legs of any mammal. Once they're clinging onto a branch then it's probably easier to chop the tree down then persuade them to loosen their grip.

They're hard to see, they die very quickly if you try to keep them in zoos, they're all very rare, and they're not really much use to people.

So is it worth the trouble of setting up special reserves where they can live happily?

Well, what do you think?

Word To Use Today: tarsier. This word comes from the French tarse, the flat of the foot, from the Greek word tarsos, which means flat surface or instep.


  1. They are wonderful looking creatures aren't they? Love them...amazing. They keep a low profile ...

    1. I can't help wondering if it's because they're still hoping for the mother ship to come to rescue them.

  2. Those eyes! Mesmerizing! I bet they win staring contests hands down!!
    I wonder how good their sight is, if they can see well in the dark, see colours?

    1. That's interesting, Jingles. If you saw the world through a tarsier's eyes you'd probably be convinced you really were on an utterly alien planet.

  3. I ... umm ... think they're a bit on the ugly side ...

    *runs for cover before he's stoned by the tarsier lovers*

  4. Come back, you dastardly villain! And take that! And that! And THAT!

    Ugly, indeed. The man can have no taste at all...