Pygmy marmosetScientific Name Callithrix pygmaea

Conservation Status Least Concerrn


The pygmy marmoset has fur which is coloured an orange-brown and striped with black and brown. In some instances the fur has a green tint. They have highly variable underbellys which can range from orange, white or tawny. There are white flecks on the cheek and a white line at the edge of the mouth and on the nose. These are believed to make facial expressions easier to see in dim light. A mane of fur covers the ears.

They have an incredibly long tail compared to their body size. Its size can range from 172 to 229mm (6.8-9in). It is non-prehensile so instead is used more for balance when running through the trees. It features rings of black and tawny.

Their fingernails are adapted to become claws which help them when climbing up and down trees. These are known as tegulae.

As the world’s smallest true monkey they could fit in the palm of your hand. They weigh in at a tiny 107-141g (3.8-5oz) average weight, with females being slightly larger than males. The head and body length averages 117-152mm (4.6-6in) long.


In the wild this species lives for around 12 years. In captivity they will survive for up to 18 years.


The pygmy marmoset is an omnivore. The majority of their diet consists of tree sap which their specially adapted incisors allow them to get out of trees by gouging a hole in the bark of a tree. Fruits, berries, buds, flowers and nectar.

They also feed upon insects which they hunt when they are attracted to the sap from the trees with grasshoppers being a favourite. On a rare occasion they have been seen eating small reptiles.

Pygmy marmosetFeeding takes place high in the canopy which is a difficult area for other animals such as predators to reach affording them some safety.


South America is the native home of the pygmy marmoset. Here they can be found throughout Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.

Their habitat is lowland forests, river floodplains, evergreen forests and bamboo thickets. It can tolerate some habitat disturbance such as living at the edge of farms. They show a preference for areas which flood for 3 months of the year. They will maintain a home range of a couple of trees which they feed from till the sap is exhausted and then they make a new home range.


Breeding takes place year round. There is a 5 to 7 month interval between births. They form pairs which live together year round and care for their offspring. The male will defend his female against any other males who come after her.

When courting a female a male will scent mark, flick his tongue, follow and groom her. When a female is receptive she displays her tail in an arch, scent marks and returns his grooming.

Following a successful mating it takes 20 weeks for the infants to be born. In most cases twins are born but single infants and triplets have been born on occasion. The infants are smaller than a human thumb. Males are highly involved with their infants. They will take care of them as soon as their born.

The first two weeks are spent riding on dads back. He will regularly present them to the mother for feeding. Once they are old enough they will be hidden while the family goes foraging.

When young they make a babbling noise which reinforces the relationship with their family.

Weaning occurs at 3 months of age. At this point they will begin to forage with the group. Infants stay with the group to help care for the next young. This allows them to learn the skills which they will need to raise their young. It also assists the parents as marmosets require a large amount of attention to successfully raise.

Sexual maturity is reached between 1 ½ years and 2 years old. They may leave at this point to begin their own families but many infants remain with the family to help raise infants.


Troops of pygmy marmosets can range from two to nine members. Their main members are the dominant male and female who breed. The rest are their previous young who are helping to raise further infants. Living in a group provides extra eyes to find predators.

Pygmy MarmosetThey are active in the day with most active in early morning and afternoon. Their day is spent gouging holes in trees to produce sap and visiting their previous holes to drink the sap.

By night they will find a tangle of vines off the ground in which they can rest.

Communications used by groups of pygmy marmosets include a trill for long distance communication, a click to warn others of threats and a whistle as a warning. They also communicate what is their territory using scent marking. They will also use their faces to communicate with other group members.

Predators of the pygmy marmoset include birds of prey, snakes and cats. They will avoid the highest portions of the canopy as a means of avoiding birds of prey.

Quick Facts

The name marmoset is a derivative of the French word for dwarf, “marmouset.”

While they are the smallest monkey the pygmy marmoset is not the smallest primate.

The pygmy marmoset has enough differences to be considered separate to the rest of the marmoset family.

Photo Credits:

Top – By Brian.gratwicke (Canon EOS DIGITAL REBEL) [CC BY 2.5 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Middle – By Don Faulkner (Flickr: Pygmy Marmoset) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Bottom – By Malene Thyssen (User Malene) (Own work) [GFDL (, CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or CC BY-SA 2.5 (], via Wikimedia Commons