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Zoo News Blog

Year of the Monkey: May

Written by Abby Varela

Pygmy marm 4Last month we talked about mandrills, the largest monkeys… this month we are featuring pygmy marmosets the smallest monkey in the world. Adult pygmy marmosets weigh 120-170 grams (about the weight of a baseball), while newborns can weigh around 11 grams, which is the equivalent of two nickels! They are a new world monkey, found in the rainforest, along the Amazon basin in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia and are strictly diurnal, meaning they are only active in the daytime.

These tiny monkeys are considered mature at the age of 15 to 17 months and live in family groups ranging anywhere from 2 to 15 individuals.  In these groups, all the males help care for offspring by taking turns carrying when the infants are not being fed by the dam (mom). The sire (dad) of the group is often times the last to eat, as he is very watchful while everyone else eats, to be sure that there are no threats around. Pygmy marmosets can turn their heads 180 degrees to help watch for predators and can leap as far as 15 feet! They also have claw-like nails as opposed to flat nails to assist them in climbing and running across trees and vines. Additionally, their teeth are specially designed to help them tear into trees so they can eat the sap from them. When the group is comfortable and feels safe, they can be seen foraging, basking, grooming each other and even adults play with each other and juveniles at times. Pymy marm 2

Here at the Houston Zoo, they rotate on exhibit in the Indoor Rainforest Exhibit in the Natural Encounters building. We currently have two females that spend a lot of time with our golden lion tamarin pair. You might even be able to catch them basking in the sun together, playing, or grooming each other!