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What Is a Dwarf Monkey?

By Anna Harrison
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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Dwarf monkey is the common name for the pygmy marmoset, an extremely small primate that lives mainly in Brazilian rainforest canopies. It can also be found in several other countries in South America in smaller numbers. This cute little monkey is the smallest in the world. It is very docile but is also quite territorial and employs several different methods to stay safe.

This primate has a body that is just 5.5 to 6.3 inches (14-16 cm) long, with a tail that is nearly 8 inches (20 cm) long. The male is slightly larger than the female. It is buff colored with mottled green and yellow striations within its fur, which is longer in the head and chest areas. From a distance, this coloring provides the dwarf monkey with camouflage and helps it avoid the birds of prey and snakes that are its biggest threat.

This little marmoset spends much of its day in the trees, where it lives in holes and among vines. It also feeds there, gnawing holes to extract the gum or sap within the wood. This is an important food source for the dwarf monkey as it cannot rely on any other steady meals year round throughout its very limited range. Although sap is the preferred food, it will also eat lizards, insects, spiders and fruit.

Pygmy marmosets have many different ways of communicating including a high pitched call that sounds more like a bird than a small monkey. They may also make squeaky trilling or crying sounds as well as a variety of whistles, clicks, and squawks. Like humans, they can communicate with each other through postures, facial expressions, and gestures. These monkeys will mark their territory by rubbing against trees and brush, which releases a scent from glands on their chests and pubic areas. Despite their diminutive size, they will defend their homes and attempt to chase anything that comes too close.

An adult pair of adult dwarf monkeys can often be found living with their offspring in groups of up to six. Only the dominant female gives birth, and usually give produces twins twice a year after a gestation period of 4.5 months. Baby monkeys are usually cared for by the adult male or older siblings, but they are returned to their mother when it is time to nurse. The babies nurse for about three months and will be full grown at two years of age. In the wild, the dwarf monkey usually lives for about 12 years, but may survive for as long as 20 years or more in captivity.

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Discussion Comments
By anon296622 — On Oct 11, 2012

Does it eat grapes?

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