It's a Furby, It's a Gremlin, It's…a Pygmy Tarsier!

By Nina Bai | November 19, 2008 2:18 pm

tarsierFurbies, those annoying furry robots that were all the rage in the late nineties, are back. But this time they’re alive. In the past few months, scientists have captured three live Furby lookalikes—called pygmy tarsiers (Tarsius pumilus)—in Indonesian forests. Pygmy tarsiers are tiny nocturnal primates, less than four inches long, with giant eyes and long thin fingers tipped with claws.

Until now, the gremlin-like creatures were almost mystical. The last time a pygmy tarsier was found alive was in 1930. Many scientists were convinced that the species was extinct until Indonesian scientists found one dead in a mouse trap in 2000. Determined to track down the mysterious species, a team of primatologists set up 276 mist nets in the mountains of Indonesia. They captured three, two males and one female, and fitted them with radio collars.

So little is known about the creatures that the researchers are literally learning first-hand. For example, Sharon Gursky-Doyen, leader of the team, learned that the little guys can turn their heads 180 degrees after one pulled the maneuver and bit her finger while she was attaching the radio collar. Unlike the gibberish-speaking Furbies, pygmy tarsiers are quiet. The researchers believe they may call in frequencies outside the range of the human ear.

With the radio collars, the researchers were able to track the movements of the three pygmy tarsiers for several weeks. They feed on insects and scamper around in the tops of trees. So far no word on whether it’s safe to feed them after midnight.

Image: flickr / vox_efx

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