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What Is The World’s Smallest Monkey?

The Pygmy Marmoset



  • Suborder: Haplorrhini
  • Infraorder: Simiiformes
  • Family: Cebidae
  • Subfamily: Callitrichinae
  • Genus: Callithrix
  • Subgenus: Cebuella
  • Species: C. pygmaea
  • Subspecies: C. p. niveiventrisC. p. pygmaea


-          Size and Habitat

  • The pygmy marmosets are the smallest monkeys in the world and can be found in South American rainforests.
    • Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia
  • The size of males and females are very similar, however, females are slightly heavier.
  •  Average adults grow between 117 to 152 millimeters (4.6-6.0 inches).
  • Average adult weights 119 grams or 4.20 ounces
  • The tail of pygmy marmosets range in length between 172-229 millimeters (6.8-9 inches).  Their tails are longer than their bodies and used for balance with jumping from one tree to another.
  • They typically live in lush evergreen forests and often near water holes.  They can also on occasion be found in the highland areas near or along riverbeds.  They live in trees at about 20 meters (65.6 feet) off the ground and they do not venture to the top of the canopy.
  • While their total population is unknown, pygmy marmosets are labeled as “Least Concern” by the IUCN Red List.  Their population, however, is correlated to food and tree availability.  Their greatest threats include habitat loss (as a result of industrialization) and the pet trade.

-          Food/Diet, Behavior

  • Tree Gum
    • Pygmy marmosets have developed a special dietary tract for tree gum as its main source of food.  They gnaw holes in the trees, which creates puddles of sap that is extracted by their tongue. 
  • Insects
    • Insects are their secondary source of food, particularly, butterflies as they are attracted to the tree sap. 
  • Nectar and fruits
  • Occasionally eggs

-          Family Structure

  • Groups of five to nine pygmy marmosets live together and usually consist of two adult males, one or two adult females and their offspring.
  • They typically give births to non-identical twins and have a gestation period of 4.5 months.
  • The birthrate of twins is approximately 76% while single births account for 16% and triplets for 8%.  Care for the new infants is shared by all adult members of the group.  The males usually carry the infants and watch over them while the females go out and gather food.
  • On average, they  have a 12 year life span

-          Communication

  • Pygmy marmosets communicate vocally, chemically, and visually (body language) with each other. 
    • Vocally
      • They have a complex system of calls that is used for short and long distance communication.  J-calls are a series of fast notes repeated by the caller and can be used for short or long distance communication.  Long calls have decreased frequency and are reserved for times the group is spread out over large distances.  Trills are reserved for short distance communication and are used during more intimate social interactions such as feeding, foraging and traveling.  
      • Chemically
        • When the female pygmy marmoset reached her ovulatory state, scent  is secreted through her chest, anus and genitals.  She will rub on surfaces to chemically communicate her reproductive state.  She may also act less aggressive with the dominate male, which indicates ovulation. 
      • Visually
        • Visual displays such as strutting, back-arching, and piloerection are performed when they feel threatened or are exerting male dominance.  In rare cases, the group can exhibit a mobbing behavior where the groups attacks and yells at the intruder until it retrieves.  If the intruder is too great of a threat, the pygmy marmosets will freeze and wait until the threat is gone. 
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