Altitudinal Effects on The Behavior and Morphology of Pygmy Tarsiers (Tarsius pumilus) in Central Sulawesi, Indonesia
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Pygmy tarsiers (Tarsius pumilus) of Central Sulawesi, Indonesia are the only species of tarsier known to live exclusively at high altitudes. This study was the first to locate and observe multiple groups of this elusive primate. This research tested the hypothesis that variation in pygmy tarsier behavior and morphology correlates with measurable ecological differences that occur along an altitudinal gradient. As a response to decreased resources at higher altitudes and the associated effects on foraging competition and energy intake, pygmy tarsiers were predicted to exhibit lower population density, smaller group sizes, larger home ranges, and reduced sexually selected traits compared to lowland tarsiers. Six groups containing a total of 22 individuals were observed. Pygmy tarsiers were only found between 2000 and 2300 m, indicating allopatric separation from lowland tarsiers. As expected, the observed pygmy tarsiers lived at a lower density than lowland tarsier species, in association with decreased resources at higher altitudes. The estimated population density of pygmy tarsiers was 92 individuals per 100 ha, with 25 groups per 100 ha. However, contrary to expectation, home range sizes were not significantly larger than lowland tarsier home ranges, and average NPL was smaller than those of lowland tarsiers. The average home range size for the observed pygmy tarsiers was 2.0 ha, and the average nightly path length (NPL) was 365.36 m. Pygmy tarsiers exhibited a nonrandom, clumped distribution near forest edges. While insect abundance and biomass were found to decrease as altitude increased, insect abundance and biomass was higher along anthropogenic edges. Thus, tarsiers within the study area may mitigate the decreased availability of insects at high altitudes by remaining close to forest edges, which in turn may be related to smaller than expected home range sizes. Further, estimates of pygmy tarsier abundance may be inflated because of increased insect abundance along anthropogenic edges. Contrary to the prediction for smaller group sizes as a response to feeding competition, the observed pygmy tarsiers lived in relatively large groups with multiple adult males. However, in support of the prediction for energetic constraints on body proportions, the observed pygmy tarsiers did not exhibit sexually selected traits. The pygmy tarsiers exhibited low sexual dimorphism and small relative testes mass, a trend opposite from lowland tarsier species, which may indicate a constraint on the development of those traits. Considered together, these results suggest that the observed pygmy tarsiers have adapted to life in an environment with limited resources. Future studies should explore the possible contributing effects of seasonality and topography.
Lore Lindu National Park
Grow, Nanda Bess (2013). Altitudinal Effects on The Behavior and Morphology of Pygmy Tarsiers (Tarsius pumilus) in Central Sulawesi, Indonesia. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from