Echolocation in a Nocturnal Primate? Academic Article uri icon


  • Recently it has been noted that Gursky's spectral tarsier emits ultrasonic calls. Because high-frequency sounds are capable of travelling only short distances, their function is limited by the distance the sound can be discerned. One possible function for these short-distance, high-frequency sounds is that they might be used by the tarsiers to navigate throughout their environment. I conducted this study at Tangkoko Nature Reserve in Sulawesi, Indonesia, from May to August 2017. Using the focal follows, I recorded the start of each locomotor activity to the nearest second. I also simultaneously recorded all ultrasonic vocalisations that the focal individual emitted using a Wildlife Acoustics Ultrasonic Song Meter BAT3. Approximately 42% of the ultrasonic calls that I recorded during this study were given within 1 s prior to engaging in locomotor activity. The tarsiers gave statistically more ultrasonic calls during locomotion than during other behaviours (rest, forage and social). Four types of ultrasonic calls were given while locomoting: whistles, doubles, trills and frequency-modulated calls. Of these, the trill and the frequency-modulated call were only given during locomotion, and trills were only given prior to leaping. These results preliminarily suggest that the tarsiers do use ultrasonic calls for navigation. Studying echolocation in organisms closely related to bats is critical for understanding the evolution of echolocation.

published proceedings

  • Folia Primatol (Basel)

altmetric score

  • 17.6

author list (cited authors)

  • Gursky, S.

citation count

  • 3

complete list of authors

  • Gursky, Sharon

publication date

  • February 2019