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Tarsier Monkey: Life Cycle & Reproduction

Instructor: Lauren Posey

Lauren has taught intermediate reading in an English Language Institute, and has her Master's degree in Linguistics.

In this lesson you'll learn about a group of primates known as tarsiers, which are among the smallest primates. We'll take a look at their life cycle as well as their reproductive behavior.

A Unique Primate

When you think about primates, the first thing that comes to mind may be the larger monkeys that swing through the trees with their tails, such as spider monkeys, or ones often found in cities, such as capuchins. However, what about the smaller, lesser known primates? These are just as fascinating. Take tarsiers, for example. They are members of family Tarsiidae, and there are around six species. Tarsiers are nocturnal (active at night), so they have huge eyes and ears, especially in comparison to their bodies, which are less than six inches long. Tarsiers are tree-dwellers and use their strong legs and long ankles to leap between trees. Although there are several different species of tarsier, they are all fairly similar when it comes to their typical life cycle and reproduction.

Tarsiers have huge eyes to help see in the dark.
Adult tarsier

Tarsier Life Cycle

As is typical for mammals, the stages of a tarsier life cycle are not marked by major physical changes. Instead, the stages are marked by changes in ability. That is, an adult tarsier can do things that a baby tarsier cannot, just like in humans. They develop quite a bit faster than humans, though!

Tarsier babies are born alert and able to see. Within an hour they can hold on to branches by themselves. This initial level of independence makes it easier for the mothers to move their babies around and stay safe from predators. It takes baby tarsiers a little longer to be able to leap, but they are fully mobile within a month. The main marker between the baby and adult stages is nursing. Tarsiers stop nursing and become fully independent at around two months. Some species, such as the Western tarsier (Tarsius bancanus), are independent even earlier, after about 40 days.

Independence and the move to solid food marks the beginning of the adult stage, but they still cannot have babies of their own. Tarsiers reach their final life cycle stage, the breeding adult stage, at around two years old. This is when they are able to mate and have babies. When all the stages are put together, the tarsier life cycle is as follows:

Baby->adult->breeding adult

Baby tarsiers can cling to tree branches when they are just an hour old.
Baby tarsier

Reproductive Behavior

Tarsiers are monogamous, which means they choose only one mate. Some species can mate any time of the year, but others mate only in the spring. The spectral tarsier (Tarsius tarsier) is unique in that it has two mating seasons. Spectral tarsiers can either mate between April and June, or between October and November. No matter what their seasonal pattern is, each tarsier will only mate once per year.

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