Pygmy Marmoset (Cebuella pygmaea) - Description: The pygmy marmoset is the world's smallest true monkey, easliy fitting in the palm of your hand. Pygmies are not sexually dimorphic and measure on average 13 cm long with 20 cm tail. The tail is not prehensile, and pygmies average 113-199 grams in weight.
Their coat is a mottled gray, brown and yellow, giving them a grizzled appearance. Pygmies are active during the day and spend most of their time foraging for food in the forest canopy. Unique to the pygmy marmoset is its jaw structure. Pygmies are "gum feeders", and will chew out shallow depressions in certain sap producing trees to feed. The sap or "gum" is thought to be a calcium source and is an important component to their diet. Pygmies also have the abiltiy
to regenerate thier teeth. Pygmies are active during the day, and spend the night in nests formed in the hollows of rainforest trees.
Range/Habitat: Pygmies are found in the Upper Amazon basin east of the Andes in Columbia, Equador, Peru, northern Bolivia and Brazil. They prefer to live in mature rainforest along rivers and streams.
Diet: In the wild Pygmies are omnivorous, feeding on a combination of fruits and plant materials, as well as small insects and lizards. As mentioned, they also gouge holes in trees to feed on saps and gums.
Social Organization: Pygmies are highly social, traveling and living in large, extended family groups of up to a dozen individuals. These groups are matriarchal, with a dominant female as primary breeder. The dominant female secretes a hormone which suppresses breeding cycles in other females in the group. After a gestation period of about 4.5 months, pygmies usually give birth to twins,
which are cared for by the entire family group. At birth the babies are fully furred with eyes open, but completely helpless. The breeding female will only carry her offspring to nurse them. Otherwise the infants passed to other family members to be carried and attended to. This behavior teaches younger siblings parenting skills and solidifies the groups social structure.
Conservation Status/Threats to Survival: Currently, pygmy marmosets are not endangered, but are listed as a species of special concern. Loss of habitat due to human encroachment is a major threat to this species, as well as the pet trade.
Comments/Conclusions: The pygmy marmoset is a highly visible and charasmatic species representing some of the world's most threatened rainforest ecosystems. These tiny creatures can and should be used as leverage to protect the vast expanses of quickly vanishing forests in which they reside.
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