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Pygmy Marmoset

Pygmy Marmoset (Callithrix Pygmaea)Pygmy Marmoset (Callithrix Pygmaea)Pygmy Marmoset (Callithrix Pygmaea)Pygmy Marmoset (Callithrix Pygmaea)Pygmy Marmoset (Callithrix Pygmaea)
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Pygmy Marmoset Facts

Five groups that classify all living things
A group of animals within the animal kingdom
A group of animals within a pylum
A group of animals within a class
A group of animals within an order
A group of animals within a family
Scientific Name:
The name of the animal in science
Callithrix Pygmaea
The animal group that the species belongs to
What kind of foods the animal eats
How long (L) or tall (H) the animal is
14-16cm (5.5-6.3in)
The measurement of how heavy the animal is
120-140g (4.2-4.9oz)
Top Speed:
The fastest recorded speed of the animal
40km/h (24mph)
How long the animal lives for
8-12 years
Whether the animal is solitary or sociable
Conservation Status:
The likelihood of the animal becoming extinct
The colour of the animal's coat or markings
Brown, Tan, Grey, Black, White
Skin Type:
The protective layer of the animal
Favourite Food:
The preferred food of this animal
Tree Sap
The specific area where the animal lives
Outskirts of tropical rainforest
Average Litter Size:
The average number of babies born at once
Main Prey:
The food that the animal gains energy from
Tree Sap, Fruit, Spiders, Insects
Other animals that hunt and eat the animal
Birds, Snakes, Wildcats
Special Features:
Characteristics unique to this animal
Long tail and furry ear tufts

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Pygmy Marmoset Location

Map of Pygmy Marmoset Locations
Map of South America

Pygmy Marmoset

“A pygmy marmoset can leap a distance of 16 feet to get from one tree branch to another.”

Pygmy marmosets live in the Amazon forests of South America. These creatures are the world’s tiniest monkeys weighing about 4 ounces in adulthood. Pygmy marmosets are omnivores that really like to eat tree sap! These monkeys live to be about 12 years old in the wild.


5 Amazing Pygmy Marmoset Facts

• Pygmy marmosets live in the tops of trees in the rainforests of South America
• These animals have fingernails they use as claws to climb trees
Butterflies, fruits, berries and tree sap are all favorite foods of this small omnivore
• One male and one female pygmy marmoset breed and live together for a lifetime
• Pygmy marmosets groom each other’s fur just like other monkeys do


Pygmy Marmoset Scientific Name

While pygmy marmoset is this animal’s common name, its scientific name is Cebuella pygmaea. It belongs to the Cebidae family and its class is Mammalia. Marmoset comes from the French word marmouset.

The pygmy marmoset has two subspecies including the northwestern pygmy marmoset and eastern pygmy marmoset. These three pygmy marmosets have fur that differs a little bit in color. Also, they live in different areas of South America as well as in Central America.


Pygmy Marmoset Appearance and Behavior

Pygmy marmosets have a coat of orangish brown fur with a mixture of brown and black stripes. The dark fur of this small animal helps to hide it as it moves across tree branches. The fingernails of this monkey serve as claws that can grasp the bark of a tree as it climbs. The way a pygmy marmoset moves, and climbs is similar to that of a squirrel you might see in your local park.

It has a small nose, small eyes and an ear on each side of the top of its head. A pygmy marmoset has extra flexibility in its neck allowing it to turn its head to look backward. This helps the animal to be on high alert for predators in the area.
A pygmy marmoset’s tail is longer than its body. It uses its tail for balance as it moves along tree limbs high up in the Amazon forest.

The body of an adult pygmy marmoset measures about 4 to 6 inches long. Plus, its squirrel-like tail is 6 to 9 inches long. A pygmy marmoset’s 9-inch tail is equal in length to an average size fork in a silverware drawer. An adult pygmy marmoset weighs a little over 4 ounces. This means it weighs about the same as one stick of butter from your fridge at home.

A pygmy marmoset claims the title as the smallest monkey in the world. But, it’s not the smallest primate in the world. That title belongs to a pygmy mouse lemur that weighs around 1.1 ounces!

Pygmy marmosets live in groups also called troops, with about 5 to 9 members. Living in groups provides these small animals with some level of protection against predators. If one member spots an ocelot, it would alert the rest of the troop to take cover in the trees. Pygmy marmosets are shy animals that stay with their own troop while remaining hidden in the trees much of the time.

The members of a pygmy marmoset troop communicate with one another using squeaks and chirps that only they can understand. One sound may mean there is danger near, while another may be a male calling to a female. The sounds these animals make are somewhat similar to the sounds made by brown and gray squirrels.

Pygmy Marmoset Habitat

Pygmy marmosets live in Peru, Ecuador, Brazil and Columbia in South America. They live in the Amazon rainforests or in thickets growing near rivers. These animals live in a tropical climate that’s humid and rainy. Pygmy marmosets live in the rainforests of South America throughout the year.

You’ll find pygmy marmosets living in forests where trees grow close together. This allows them to easily jump to the branches of different trees. Plus, it’s easy to stay hidden from predators when the branches of trees are crisscrossing one another. A pygmy marmoset’s orange/brown fur also helps it to stay hidden among the dark branches and tree trunks of the rainforest. Generally, pygmy marmosets remain in a territory of less than an acre of forest.


Pygmy Marmoset Diet

What do pygmy marmosets eat? The main food source of this animal is tree sap. Pygmy marmosets use their bottom row of sharp teeth to dig holes into the bark of a tree. They dig until they find sap, then drink it like a dog drinks water from its bowl.

Oftentimes, a pygmy marmoset chooses just one tree to dig into for sap every time it wants food. This tree is located somewhere in the specific territory of the monkey. Some trees can have up to 1300 holes made over time by one hungry pygmy marmoset!

These animals are omnivores, so they certainly eat more than tree sap. They eat fruit, butterflies, leaves, small spiders and nectar. They are quick and can grab insects that live on the branches around them. The type of food these monkeys eat depends on what is most plentiful in the area.

Since pygmy marmosets are so little, they don’t need to eat very much to survive. They may drink as much as a tablespoon of tree sap at one time. These monkeys like to look for food in the morning and late afternoon.

Pygmy marmosets that are kept in zoos are fed vegetables and fruits along with a special food mixture that’s easy for them to digest. The amount and type of food they are given is carefully monitored. Feeding a pygmy marmoset processed food would be harmful to this little animal.


Pygmy Marmoset Predators and Threats

As you may have guessed, pygmy marmosets have many predators due to the fact that these monkeys are so small. Some of their predators include hawks, snakes, ocelots and eagles, specifically the harpy eagle.

Since pygmy marmosets stay high up in the trees, they are especially vulnerable to eagles, hawks and other birds. Plus, there are many snakes that climb trees such as the pit viper. The pygmy marmoset’s speed and ability to hide are its only defenses against these predators.

The habitat of pygmy marmosets is threatened when trees in the rainforest are cut down and cleared. This takes away their home as well as their food source.

Humans are a threat to pygmy marmosets in another way. Sometimes these animals are caught and sold as exotic pets throughout the world. This is another thing that reduces their population.

The official conservation status of the pygmy marmoset is Threatened. Their habitat is threatened when trees are cleared, but if this could be slowed it would help increase the population of this monkey.

There are laws against buying and selling wild animals as pets. This includes the pygmy marmoset. Enforcement of these laws can contribute to keeping the pygmy marmosets safe in their natural habitat.


Pygmy Marmoset Reproduction, Babies and Lifespan

Breeding season for the pygmy marmoset happens throughout the year. While looking for a mate, a male will mark the area with his scent and follow one female around the territory. One male and one female in a troop breed and the rest of the members of the group help to take care of the young. This male and female stay together for their lifetime. The gestation period of a pygmy marmoset is about 20 weeks. Generally, there are two live babies in a litter. More rarely, a female will have one or three babies.
A newborn pygmy marmoset weighs .4 ounces. Imagine a newborn pygmy as being about the size of an adult human’s thumb!

During the first couple weeks of a newborn pygmy marmoset’s life it rides around on the back of its father. It’s the father who is the main caretaker of pygmy marmoset babies. When it’s time to eat, the father takes the babies to their mother so she can nurse them.

Baby pygmy marmosets start to eat insects and tree sap at about 3 months old. Others in the troop teach the babies how to find food. Once a baby pygmy marmoset is about 1 and a half or 2 years old, it may strike out on its own as an adult. But, in some cases, the young stay with the troop to help raise other babies. This means there may be several siblings in a troop.

The average lifespan of a pygmy marmoset is 12 years. Of course, the number of predators in the area where a pygmy marmoset lives can definitely have an effect on its lifespan. These small monkeys can suffer from malnutrition as they age if there is a decrease in the foods they eat in their environment.


Pygmy Marmoset Population

The conservation status of the pygmy marmoset is Threatened. The exact population of pygmy marmosets is unclear due to their size and ability to hide in inaccessible areas. But, scientists believe the largest concentration of these animals lives near the Amazon and Rio Negro Rivers in South America. Their population seems to be holding steady as some efforts are being made to reduce clearing of the Amazon rainforest.


Pygmy Marmoset FAQ


Are pygmy marmoset carnivores, herbivores or omnivores?

Pygmy marmosets are omnivores. They eat insects as well as fruits. But, if they have access to tree sap in their territory, they will look for that before practically any other food source. As a note, when pygmy marmosets dig holes in trees to get tree sap, they are also attracting insects into their territory. Butterflies are likely to be attracted to the tree sap and may fall victim to a pygmy marmoset when they land on a branch to drink the sap.


Are pygmy marmosets dangerous?

Generally, pygmy marmosets are shy, non-aggressive animals. But, they can become aggressive to other pygmy marmosets especially during breeding season when there is competition for mates. Since they are vulnerable to so many predators, pygmy marmosets are in hiding a lot of the time.

How expensive is a pygmy marmoset?

A pygmy marmoset captured illegally can be sold for thousands of dollars to someone who wants an exotic pet. The laws protecting these animals makes it risky for someone to capture one and deliver it to its new owner without being caught by authorities. This results in a high price for these little monkeys.

How big do pygmy marmosets get?

The largest a pygmy marmoset can get is about 15 inches from the tip of its nose to the end of its tail. They weigh no more than about 6 ounces. They’re very small animals even when fully-grown.


Are pygmy marmosets good pets?

No. Pygmy marmosets must have certain foods to maintain good health and not become ill. Also, these animals are used to living in troops, so they don’t do well when they live alone or with one other pygmy marmoset. In addition, pygmy marmosets are supposed to live in a tropical rainforest climate. This environment is practically impossible for a pet owner to create.

Finally, when a pygmy marmoset is kept as a pet in a home, it is vulnerable to dogs, cats and other large animals in the household. These are just a few of the reasons why pygmy marmosets should be left to live with others of their own species in their natural habitat.

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First Published: 10th November 2008, Last Updated: 15th April 2020

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