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What Is a Pygmy Marmoset?

By Alex Terris
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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A pygmy marmoset is a small primate that lives in certain parts of South America. It has a distinctive black ringed tail and can live for about 10 years in the wild and up to 20 in captivity. Pygmy marmosets are usually found in groups of up to six, consisting of an adult pair and several litters. The diet of a pygmy marmoset mainly consists of tree sap, although it also eats other animals and fruit. Predators of the pygmy marmoset include snakes and birds of prey.

Pygmy marmosets are very small monkeys and rarely grow to longer than 6 inches (15.2 cm). This makes them one of the smallest primates in the world and the smallest of all the marmosets. Despite the monkey’s diminutive size, it can live for over a decade in the wild. Most specimens of pygmy marmosets weigh less than 7 ounces (190 g), with many considerably lighter. Physically, a pygmy marmoset is distinguishable by its darkly-ringed tail as well as a coat of fur that is a different color at its tip to its root.

The pygmy marmoset can be found in several South American countries including Brazil, Peru, and Ecuador. The species has many local nicknames including the “little lion” and “pocket monkey.” The small monkeys live in regions of forests located near rivers, especially areas that regularly flood. Sometimes the marmosets can be found in areas of bamboo. As much of the pygmy marmoset's natural habitat is under threat from humans, the animal is listed as vulnerable.

In the wild, pygmy marmosets live in groups consisting of a pair of adults and their young. An adult pygmy marmoset typically looks after its young for about two birth cycles. Sometimes a group may include more than just a single male, although one will always be the dominant member. Like most primates, a pygmy marmoset is a social animal, which is why it is uncommon to find solitary ones.

This monkey variant mainly feeds on sap and other tree gum. Marmosets make holes in trees to get at sap, which also creates a daily source of food when the sap is replenished. They are also known, however, to feed on other animals such as reptiles and insects. A typical diet often includes certain types of fruit. While hunting for food, pygmy marmosets have to be wary of predators such as the boa constrictor, Harpy eagles, and pythons.

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