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Rainforest Animal: Pygmy Marmoset - Man's Smallest Relative

The world’s smallest monkey, the Pygmy Marmoset, lives in rainforest canopies of western Brazil, southeastern Colombia, eastern Ecuador and eastern Peru, sheltered in holes in trees. These little primates range from five to six inches long (excluding the tail) and weigh only four and one-half to five ounces. The Pygmy Marmoset’s tail is ringed, and when stretched out, is as long as their bodies. Because much of their diet comes from tree sap, their claws are specially adapted for climbing and boring holes into trees. They can spend two-thirds of their time digging out bark and wood fibre in their attempts to reach the gummy sap. The Marmoset’s incisors are shovel-shaped, designed for gouging holes in trees so they can lick out the sap.

These little creatures are difficult to observe in their natural habitat because of their small size. Researchers are not sure how long they live in the wild; in captivity, they can live from 10 to 11 years. In addition to tree sap, their diet consists of fruit, insects, birds and bird eggs. They live in family groups, sometimes with two males and several females (only one male is dominant and he controls access to the females) and several youngsters. Females typically give birth to two babies at a time.

The Pygmy Marmoset’s rating on the Worldwide Endangered Species List is LC, of ‘least concern’. However, because the rainforest ecosystem is an amazing resource that is quickly slipping away, the rate of species extinction generally is undeniably high. Pygmies create colonies on edges of pastures, fields and orchards, in close proximity to humans. However, these communities are unlike the dense populations found in undisturbed rainforests. As rainforests are logged, mined and developed for agriculture, Pygmies will forever lose their homeland. Increased public awareness about the little guys can’t hurt.


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