Feeding ecology and diet

All tarsiers eat animal food exclusively; no field or captive studies have documented any plant food in their diet. Tarsiers locate their prey by sound or by sight, their closest com-

A western tarsier (Tarsius bancanus) eats a cicada. (Photo by Frans Lanting/Minden Pictures. Reproduced by permission.)

petitors being insectivorous bats and small owls. They catch and relish all sorts of arthropods. Birds up to their own body weight have been observed to be caught in mid-flight and killed on the ground, their head, brain, and beak being completely eaten. Lizards and even poisonous snakes can be killed and eaten. Their unselective menu may be a kind of life insurance, as they may, in times of seasonal scarcity, just switch to a different kind of prey.

Tarsiers prefer to eat during vertical clinging. Although this behavior seems to be the best predator prevention, when the animal is distracted and chewing noisily, the sympatric slow loris may catch a tarsier. Also, a constricting snake was observed killing a tarsier, in spite of being heavily mobbed by other tarsiers.

Thus far, only the western tarsier has been studied for parasites. Without exception, all individuals investigated were infested by endoparasites. According to a yet unpublished feces analysis, the same seems to be true also for spectral tarsiers.

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