The pygmy marmoset (Cebuella pygmaea) is the world's smallest true monkey with a body only 6 inches long. Despite its small size, the pygmy marmoset can jump up to 16 feet. It is native to tropical South America where it is called the leoncillo, or little lion. Pygmy marmosets can be kept as pets but are wild animals with specific needs and should not be treated as house pets. In captivity, they can live for up to 20 years.
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Pygmy marmosets are about 6 inches long and have a tail the same length. They weight about 113 to 142gr, with females slightly smaller than the males. Both males and females are a slightly greenish, tawny brown colour with a ringed tail and a hairless mask around the eyes, nose and mouth. Pygmy marmosets are quite vocal and produce a range of high-pitched trills and whistles.
Pygmy marmosets live in the Upper Amazon basin in Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Northern Bolivia and Brazil. They live up in the understory of the canopy and rarely if ever come down to the ground. The small size of the pygmy marmoset allows it to travel and forage among the thinnest branches of the forest. In their ideal habitat in riverine forests, there can be as many as 233 marmosets per square half mile. Due to their large range and ability to reproduce rapidly, pygmy marmosets are not considered to be endangered.
Small family groups of pygmy marmosets, controlled by a dominant female, live in small home ranges about an acre in size, centred around a tree. Groups change ranges frequently. Most groups have a regular, communal sleeping site that they use every night. Much of the day is spent foraging or in communal grooming. Young and subadult pygmy marmosets are very playful.
In the wild, up to 85 per cent of the pygmy marmoset's diet consists of tree sap and other plant exudates. A family group will frequent a tree and cut small circular holes in its bark with specially adapted incisors. They then feed on the sap that is exuded by the tree during the night. After the supply of sap from a tree drops, the whole pygmy marmoset group moves to a new range with a new feeding tree. Pygmy marmosets also eat insects and other small animals foraged in the canopy of the forest.
Pygmy marmosets are high-strung and are often stressed in captivity if not kept in ideal conditions with plenty of shelter and privacy. Because it is impossible replicate their natural sap-based diet in captivity, they are fed on a mixture of sweet fruit and vegetables and live insects such as crickets and mealworms. Pygmy marmosets have a strong sense of smell, and dominant females are able to suppress reproduction in other females in the group. In ideal conditions, pygmies are easy to breed, and a pair will reproduce more or less constantly.
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