November 18, 2008

Pygmy tarsiers, thought extinct, found

A group of primates in Indonesia that hasn't been seen alive in 85 years has been rediscovered by a team fromTexas A&M University.

The Pygmy Tarsiers, big-eyed, tiny creatures weighing less than 2 ounces, haven't been observed until they were collected for a museum in 1921 and were thought to be extinct until Indonesian scientists accidentally trapped and killed a Pygmy Tarsier in 2000, the university said.

The Texas A&M team trapped three of the nocturnal creatures in Indonesia in late August. The Pygmy Tarsiers have fingers with claws instead of nails, which professor Sharon Gursky-Doyen said is a distinguishing feature of the species.

The scientists used approximately 276 mist nets to capture the Pygmy Tarsiers, then attached radio collars to their necks so their movements could be tracked.

Gursky-Doyen, a physical anthropologist, specializes in behavioral ecology and conservation of nonhuman primates. She and her graduate student are drafting a paper that represents the first behavioral and ecological data on this living population of Pygmy Tarsiers, the university said.