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Two New Species of ‘Yoda-Like’ Tarsiers Discovered in Indonesian Island

May 09, 2017 06:15 AM EDT
Two new species of tarsiers have been discovered in Indonesia.
(Photo : zefrank1/YouTube)

Tarsiers, tiny nocturnal primates that remarkably look like Star Wars icon Yoda, are only found in certain parts of southeast Asia. Recently, scientists discovered two new species of the strange-looking animal in the Sulawesi island of Indonesia, a region where forests are in rapid decline.

According to a report from Conservation International, the two newly discovered species of tarsiers were spotted in the northern part of Sulawesi. Dubbed the Tarsius spectrumgurskyae and Tarsius supriatnai, the two are very similar but display distinct vocalizations and genetic data.

"These two new species are the 80th and 81st primates new to science described since 2000 - this represents about 16 percent of all primate species known, and is indicative of how little we know of our planet's unique and wonderful biodiversity," co-author Russ Mittermeier, a primatologist with Conservation International, explained. "If we haven't even gotten a handle on the diversity our closest living relatives, which by comparison are relatively well-studied, imagine how much we still have to learn about the rest of life on Earth."

The nocturnal animals are light and very small, but the carnivorous primates can leap as far as three meters in a single bound. With their exaggerated features -- startlingly wide eyes (each one as big as their brain), large ears and long feet -- the tiny "Yoga-like" tarsiers attract a lot of tourists who are eager to see and hold rare primates.

Letting people handle tarsiers on a regular basis isn't such a good idea, though. Acording to a report from the Philippine Tarsier Foundation, they're incredibly sensitive animals, and prone to bashing their heads when stressed - even to the point of hurting themselves.

The researchers of the recent study added that their findings highlighted the conservation problems that have been plaguing the region for years. Indonesia is known for having the highest rate of deforestation in the entire world, compromising the habitats of many animals whose population has plummeted in effect.

The findings were published in the journal Primate Conservation on May 4, Star Wars Day.

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