UP biologists confirm new Philippine tarsier species

Alora Uy Guerrero
Editor. You may tweet her at @aloraguerrero.
Yahoo Southeast Asia Newsroom
Photo by Melizar V. Duya published in UP's report.

It’s official: We now have a new Philippine tarsier species in the Dinagat tarsier.

Genetic tests done by University of the Philippines scientists have shown that the “cryptic" species is part of the Dinagat-Caraga-Surigao del Norte cluster, and is distinct from that of the popular Bohol-Samar-Leyte and Zamboanga-Mindanao phylogeographic clusters.

The results of the study can be found in the paper “Conservation Genetics of the Philippine Tarsier: Cryptic Genetic Variation Restructures Conservation Priorities for an Island Archipelago Primate.”

The paper, shared by Dr. Perry S. Ong of the UP Diliman Institute of Biology, was published on PLOS ONE, a peer-reviewed, open-access journal of the Public Library of Science.

It has long been suspected that the Dinagat and Bohol tarsiers come from different species.

The former is larger in size, as observed by Father of Philippine Wildlife Conservation Dr. Dioscoro Rabor in 1973.

About 30 years ago, American zoologist Dr. Guy Musser also noted that the Dinagat tarsier’s toes and feet appear wider, shorter, and stubbier.

Members of the research team likewise pointed out that it has darker hair and skin.

Because physical observations alone were not enough, mitochondrial data had to be examined, which led to the new discovery.

The taxonomic status of the Dinagat tarsier is still being finalized, but Ong is already “hopeful that their research would be the springboard for improved tarsier conservation efforts in the country.”

Ong explained that for a wildlife-conversation strategy to be effective, it must be unique to the species due to distinctions in behavior and environment as what works for one may not work for a different species.