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Bo: Male, born June 26, 2002 at Philadelphia Zoo.
On your next visit, look for circular divots on branches in the pygmy marmoset exhibits. These are holes scraped by the marmosets themselves, using their sharp, chisel-like lower incisors. In the wild, pygmy marmosets gouge similar holes in trees and vines, and then eat the gum that flows out of the hole.
Small Mammal House.
The pygmy marmoset is a tiny monkey native to the western Amazon basin. It is the smallest of all true monkeys and one of the smallest of all primates. Adults have tawny or brownish-gold fur above, with black flecking. The belly is a lighter color, varying from yellowish to cream or white. There is a slight ruff of fur around the head, giving the appearance of a tiny mane – in some languages, the pygmy marmoset is called “tiny lion”. Most primates have flat nails like we do, but marmosets and tamarins, including the pygmy marmoset, have sharp claws on all digits except the big toe. These claws are probably an adaptation that helps these small monkeys cling to bark and other surfaces, since their hands aren’t big enough to reach around any but the smallest branches.
Preferred habitat of the pygmy marmoset includes the edges of rivers and their floodplains – areas near rivers that are annually inundated from seasonal rising of the river. They are usually not found in higher elevation interior forests that do not flood annually, although they do seem to be able to colonize human-created forest edges around orchards, field and other clearings.
This species is not of conservation concern at the present time. Because they reproduce rapidly, have relatively small space requirements, and are found over a large geographic area, pygmy marmosets are in better shape in the wild than many other South American primate species.
A typical lifespan for a pygmy marmoset is about 6 or 7 years. Lifespan in the wild is not well known.
Pygmy marmosets live in small family groups of from 2-9 adults and juveniles, with an additional one or two infants still carried by the adults in some groups. The most common group size is 6-7. Most groups are composed of a breeding pair and offspring from up to several successive litters.
In the wild, pygmy marmosets rely heavily on gums and saps (exudates) from trees and vines. They scrape the surface of the tree or vine with their specialized chisel-like lower incisor teeth to create a wound out of which exudates flow. These exudates may be an important source of protein, carbohydrates and calcium. Researchers have identified at least 39 types of trees and 19 different vines that pygmy marmosets utilize in this way. They also eat insects and other arthropods and small quantities of fruits and other plant parts.
Each pygmy marmoset group uses an area of forest that is usually about an acre or less in size and which it does not share with other groups. The group relies on several trees and vines within this home range for the exudates that make up a large part of their diet; a single tree may be the principal exudate source. If and when the exudate output from these key sources drops, the group may shift to another area of forest.
Pygmy marmosets are diurnal (active during the day) and arboreal.
Pygmy marmoset gestation period is about 19-20 weeks. Most births are of non-identical twins, but females sometimes give birth to single babies or to triplets. Babies weigh only about half an ounce (15 g) at birth! In the wild, births can occur throughout the year, although they may be seasonally clustered in some areas. Females may produce litters as often as twice a year.
The father and older youngsters help with the new infants, doing much of the carrying of the babies until they’re able to travel on their own.
Total length (head, body and tail combined) is usually 13-14 in (33-36cm). More than half of this is tail, with the head and body only about 5 in (13 cm) long combined.
The pygmy marmoset is the smallest of all monkeys and one of the smallest of all primates. Body weight of wild adults averages only about 4 oz (113 g). Well-fed zoo animals may be a little bit heavier.
In the wild, pygmy marmosets rely heavily on gums and saps (exudates) from trees and vines. These exudates may be an important source of protein, carbohydrates and calcium. Wild pygmy marmosets also eat insects and other arthropods and small quantities of fruits and other plant parts. In the Zoo, we feed our pygmy marmosets a primate chow specially formulated for marmosets and tamarins, along with insects, fresh fruits, and gum arabic, a commercially available exudate from acacia trees.
The pygmy marmoset is found in the upper Amazon Basin in western Brazil, eastern Peru, eastern Ecuador, southern Colombia, and northern Bolivia.
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