Pygmy Marmoset

Pygmy Marmoset

Pocket monkey, Little lion, Dwarf monkey, Finger monkey

Cebuella pygmaea
Population size
Life Span
11-18.6 years
Top speed
km/h mph 
g oz 
cm inch 

The pygmy marmoset, genus Cebuella, is a small genus of New World monkey native to rainforests of the western Amazon Basin in South America. It is notable for being the smallest monkey and one of the smallest primates in the world, at just over 100 grams (3.5 oz). It is generally found in evergreen and river-edge forests and is a gum-feeding specialist, or a gummivore.


The adorable Pygmy marmoset is the smallest monkey around the globe. Thus, an adult individual of this species fits in a hand of an adult human, having the same weight as a stick of butter. This little cute primate exhibits brown fur and a long, squirrel-like tail, which is longer than its body. Although the tail isn't prehensile, it's still very helpful, acting as a prop and allowing the animal to balance when traveling among treetops. In general, this animal closely resembles a squirrel by its habit of hiding behind tree trunks and branches as well as freezing and fleeing on occasion. Along with tamarins, marmosets are the smallest primates in the world. However, the Pygmy marmoset displays a number of unique features, distinguishing this animal from all other species of its genus.




Pygmy marmosets are endemic to South America, where they occur in the western part of the Amazon Basin. These animals exhibit two well-defined sub-species: Western pygmy marmosets, occupying the state of Amazonas in Brazil (more precisely, the territory north of the Rio Solimões), eastern Peru (south to the Río Maranõn), southern Colombia, northern Bolivia and north-eastern parts of Ecuador; and Eastern pygmy marmosets that occur from the state of Amazonas (Brazil) to eastern Peru and southwards to northern Bolivia as well as south of the Rio Solimões and Río Maranõn. The preferred type of habitat is lowland, tropical evergreen forest with river floodplains. Overall, these monkeys favor forests that remain flooded for over 3 months per year.

Pygmy Marmoset habitat map

Climate zones

Pygmy Marmoset habitat map

Habits and Lifestyle

The Pygmy marmosets are arboreal and diurnal animals. They are generally active during cooler mornings and late afternoons. As highly social primates, they gather into stable groups of 2-15 marmosets. These are normally family troops, consisting of a breeding pair and their young. When sleeping at night, they usually huddle together. Their sleeping sites are located in among dense vine growth, at heights of about 7-10 meters. Mutual grooming is an important part of their lives, enhancing interpersonal relationships between troop members. A single group occupies a territory of up to 100 acres. Pygmy marmosets are very territorial primates, scent-marking the home range of the community to defend it against outsiders. These animals generally communicate through vocalizations. There are specific calls to display danger, encourage mating, or encourage infants. Meanwhile, the duration of the call depends on the distance between individuals. Thus, short calls are used to communicate with those close by, while longer ones are given out to keep in contact with group members, which are far away. Pygmy marmosets also communicate through clicking sounds.

Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Pygmy marmosets are herbivorous (frugivorous, gumivorous, nectarivorous, folivorous) and carnivorous (insectivorous) animals. They feed upon a wide variety of food such as nectar, fruit, leaves, and insects. However, their primary type of food is gum or tree sap.

Mating Habits

4.5 months
1-3 infants
3 months

These primates mainly exhibit a monogamous mating system, where individuals of both genders have only one mate. The dominant male usually restricts access of other males to the breeding females of its group. However, Pygmy marmosets are also known to display polyandrous breeding, where a single females mates with multiple males. This typically takes place in troops, containing several males. These animals don't have a specific breeding season and instead breed at any time of the year. The dominant female of a troop yields young at intervals of 5-6 months. Group members display a cooperative system of infant care, mating during the female’s postpartum estrus, about 3 weeks upon giving birth. The gestation period lasts for 4.5 months, producing 1-3 infants with an average of 2. The babies are mainly cared for by their father, who carries them on his back, while the mother is only responsible for cleaning as well as feeding her offspring during the nursing period, which lasts for 3 months. The age of reproductive maturity is 1-1.5 years old.


Population threats

Although the Pygmy marmosets presently face habitat destruction, this factor doesn't have a noticeable impact on their population as a whole. However, these animals are still threatened by some localized factors. For example, the population in Putumayo (Colombia) currently suffers from the pet trade. On the other hand, those in touristy areas occasionally display unusual behavior, which is believed to negatively affect their breeding capabilities.

Population number

According to IUCN, the Pygmy marmoset is common and widespread throughout its range but no overall population estimate is available. Currently, the species is classified as Vulnerable (VU), but its numbers are decreasing.

Ecological niche

Due to their choice of diet, the Pygmy marmosets may impact the health of the trees that they are feeding on.


Finger monkeys' (pygmy marmoset) value is associated with them being the smallest primate in the world. New-born pygmy marmosets are usually 5–6 inches (130–150 mm) tall, and weigh from 100 grams (3.5 oz). Although these primates are not in danger of extinction, they are rare to find in the market for purchase. Prices range from $1,000 to $4,000. Generally, a pygmy marmoset's life span is from 15 to 20 years, they are known to have a shorter life in the wild mainly because they fall out of trees.

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Another expense for these creatures as pets is the necessary essentials in order to maintain them. Creating an environment similar to that of where they are from is important. For food, these creatures as pets are often fed fruits, insects, and smaller lizards. As pets, a baby pygmy marmoset needs to be fed every two hours for at least two weeks. Understanding their natural diet is also important because it helps maintain their good health from the necessary protein, calcium and other nutritional sources they need in order to survive.

In the United States, each state has different regulations when it comes to owning one of these creatures. Another factor that needs to be considered is that a regular veterinarian might not be able to help provide medical evaluations or care; one would need to seek out a veterinarian with a primate specialization. In South America it is illegal to either import or export these creatures. Understanding the laws within those countries is important when it comes to considering owning or taking care of a pygmy marmoset. Many people do not agree that pygmy marmosets should be pets. The argument is usually that they have a longer life span when they are in good care from a human. However, the UK RSPCA says they should "not be considered as pets in the accepted sense of the word. They are wild undomesticated animals that cannot be house-trained or fully tamed".

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Fun Facts for Kids

  • The word 'marmoset' derives from ‘marmouset’ - a French word, meaning ‘shrimp’ or ‘dwarf’.
  • While most primates display flat nails (otherwise called ungulae), these animals possess claw-shaped nails known as tegulae.
  • Pygmy marmosets are very agile flexible creatures. They can take long leaps of up to 15 feet into the air as well as rotate their head for up to 180 degrees.
  • The sharp lower canine teeth allow these monkeys to pierce tree bark in order to get to the desired sap, which is their favorite type of food.
  • These primates are generally quiet, occasionally emitting clicks as well as high-pitched whistling sounds, which serve as an alarm call.

Coloring Pages


1. Pygmy Marmoset Wikipedia article -
2. Pygmy Marmoset on The IUCN Red List site -

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