Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Ta-Da! The Tarsier...

Tarsier's are small primates with gigantic eyes.  I find them absolutely adorable, but I'm a sucker for big pretty eyes and soft critters.  They resemble a pygmy marmoset crossed with a bat and have some truly ginormous eyes.  They currently live in Southeast Asia but were once far more widespread.  Tarsier's are the only carnivorous primate.  They like to prey on insects,lizards, and especially birds.  They are mainly nocturnal but you can find some awake in the day but acting far more lethargic.

Might as well start with the Tarsier's most defining feature their eyes.  Each eyeball can stretch 16 mm in diameter, considering this animal is barely larger than your hand and with a head 20 cm long, eyes that large is quite a feat. Their eyes are actually larger than their brain, they also lack the ability to reflect light.Their eyes and how they connect to their brain gives good reasoning that tarsier is actually an older species of primate.  Our thalamus receives visual information and is connected to our eyes directly, a tarsier has a very different arrangement than all other primates.

Tarsier's got their name because they have very elongated tarsus bones in their feet.  Their fingers are also elongated and have nails.  The third digit on their hands is almost as long as their entire forearm and contains a single long claw.  Their strange limbs make them adept for tree living.  Tarsiers are known to leap and catch birds mind flight and jump to another tree.

Tarsiers have never been able to sustain a population in captivity.  Their is only a few sanctuaries that have been established successfully.  This is a great example of an animal who has been greatly affected by habitat loss.  The only way for this unusual creature to survive is by having large sections of forest to roam and re-populate.

That's it for now,

PS you have to admit they have cute moments....

Friday, March 16, 2012

What in the World? A Pangolin...

So continuing with my month of exotic animal posts, today is all about the only scaled mammal, the Pangolin.  Many people are confused by this animal because it looks like a reptile crossed with a weasel and a dash of armadillo thrown in.  Pangolin's live mainly in Africa and some parts of India and Southern Asia.  It is a mammal the only kind with keratin scales covering its body.  When pangolin's are born the scales are soft and harden.  Keratin is the same material in our hair, nails, and even in rhino horns. 

Pangolin's has long claws and either live in trees or large underground boroughs.  Their front claws are so long they cannot walk flat footed and instead walk with their front feet curled under.  Pangolin's have no teeth instead they tear apart trees or termite mounds and use their long tongue to slurp out insects and grubs.  The tongues of Pangolin's are extra long and appear longer because they are unattached to their hyroid bone.  So their tongues extend all the way into their abdominal cavity.  When pangolin's are sleeping or scared they can curl into a ball like an armadillo.  They are nocturnal animals so they are most active at night.  The pangolin has a prehensile tail and can hang from it, often to get tasty insects.

Scientists have a hard time classifying exactly which animals are related to Pangolin's, currently they are listed in the order Pholidata with lots of now extinct animals.  There is a lot of debate if they actually belong there, a large number of scientists believe they should be grouped sloths and anteaters in the Xenarthra order.  The debate on where the Pangolin's should be classified tells me they are a very unique creature who has convergently evolved similar characteristics as several other species.  I think all can agree this is a special creature with lots of special attributes.

That's all for now,