Tiny monkeys have been gaining popularity around the world and specifically in China as potential pets. They’re incredibly cute, with some species being able to fit in the palm of your hand.
If you’ve ever wondered how small a monkey can be, this list is for you. We’ll be detailing the five smallest monkeys found around the world, some honorable mentions, and including some fun facts about monkeys in general!
For the purpose of this list, we’ll specifically be looking at monkeys. There tends to be a little confusion when it comes to primates and their classification so before we begin we should clear that up. This will be an incredibly simple explanation, but the broader topic is much deeper.
The word primate refers to the taxonomic order of primates. Within this order are apes, monkeys, and lemurs. Apes are tailless primates such as gorillas, chimpanzees, and orangutans. “Monkey” tends to refer to simian primates with tails.
Humans are also primates and we most closely resemble apes. Our classification is within the sub-group hominoids.
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5 Smallest Monkey Species in the World
Author’s note: For the conservation status of each species, we’ll be referring to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (or IUCN) Red List.
1. Pygmy Marmoset
Marmosets are some of the tiniest primates on the planet and you’ll be seeing a lot of them in this list. The smallest marmoset we know of is the pygmy marmoset of South America.
When fully grown, this tiny little monkey only weighs between 3 to 5 ounces (85 to 140 grams). Its body length usually averages between 4.6 to 6.2 inches (12 to 16 centimeters), but it has a tail measuring 6.8 to 9 inches (17 to 23 centimeters).
The pygmy marmoset is small enough that it can fit in the palm of your hand. They typically have orange-brown fur and what is called “agouti” coloring, where each strand of hair has black and brown stripes.
They have a mane of hair covering their ears as well. Though their fingernails help them climb trees, they do not have opposable thumbs.
Pygmy marmosets are native to the Amazon Rain Forest regions of Brazil, Columbia, Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia. They spend most of their time in dense vegetation along riverbanks and floodplains. Each individual has a very small territorial range of under half an acre and only eats from a few trees.
The favorite food for pygmy marmosets is tree sap that they get from biting holes into trees. They’ll also eat some fruit, nectar, and small insects that come to their sap holes. Because of their size, pygmy marmosets become prey for different types of snakes, cats, eagles, and hawks.
Pygmy marmosets typically live in groups called “troops” that can number up to nine monkeys. Each group usually has a breeding pair, babies, and the pair’s adult offspring. In the wild, a pygmy marmoset can live as long as twelve years, eighteen years if they’re cared for in a zoo.
According to the IUCN Red List, both eastern and western pygmy marmosets are listed as vulnerable to extinction. The main threats to the specie’s survival are deforestation of the Amazon Rain Forest and the pet trade since the demand for such a cute animal tends to be high.
2. Roosmalens Dwarf Marmoset
The Roosmalens dwarf marmoset, also known as the black-crowned marmoset, is another tiny monkey species that call South America home. Not only are they small, but their native range is too, as they have the smallest distribution of any primate on the continent.
When fully grown, they weigh between 5½-6½ oz (150-185 g), have a body length between 7-9 inches (18-22 cm), and a tail length between 8½-9½ in (22–24 cm).
Roosmalens dwarf marmosets can be identified by their white-ringed face, olive to dark brown coat, and pale yellowish underside. The crown of their head is usually black, giving them their common name of black-crowned marmoset.
Black-crowned marmosets have a very small range when compared to other South American primates. They’re only found on the east bank of the lower Madeira River, and the west bank of the Aripuanã River, in Brazil.
Just like pygmy marmosets, they use sharp fingernails and teeth to open holes in trees to get at tree sap. Since they’re closely related to the pygmy marmoset, they share common predators and other portions of their diet, but since their range is so small and remote, they’re difficult to study.
Roomalen’s dwarf marmosets are unusual when it comes to social structures. They aren’t territorial for the most part and instead of a single dominant female, multiple breeding females can coexist in one troop. They also only give birth to single offspring, not twins like other marmosets.
These cute little monkeys are listed as Vulnerable to extinction by the IUCN Red List. They suffer from habitat loss and pollution, but their smaller numbers, small range, and remote homes make it difficult to come by accurate population numbers.
3. Silvery Marmoset
Silvery marmosets, or black-tailed monkeys, are also native to South America. Specifically, they can be found in the eastern Amazonian Rain Forests of Brazil.
When fully grown, these tiny monkeys reach total lengths of 18 to 28 cm (7.1 to 11.0 in) and weigh from 300 to 400 g (11 to 14 oz).
Silvery marmosets stand out because of their white to silver fur and dark black tails. They have naked ears and faces, as well as pointed faces.
They’re most often found inside of tree hollows and are endemic to eastern Brazilian rainforests. They tend to spend the night sleeping high off the ground in vine tangles.
The majority of a silvery marmoset’s diet, like other marmosets, is made of tree sap and gum. They’re also known to eat leaves, insects, and small fruits. Rarely do these monkeys come down and touch the ground, spending nearly their entire lives in the trees.
Most troops of silvery marmosets number between 4 and 11. Like pygmy marmosets, the group is made of a breeding pair and their young. Most of the day is spent eating, grooming, or playing among the trees, but they will defend their group’s territory against intruders.
Silvery marmosets are listed as a species of least concern by the IUCN Red List, but population numbers are declining. They tend to be very adaptable to depleted forests and the effects of deforestation. They’re threatened mostly by habitat loss from the logging industry and are popular in the pet trade.
4. Common Marmoset
Common marmosets are another tiny primate native to the rain forests of Brazil. They can normally be found west of the Rio Grande, but they’ve also been introduced to areas outside of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Buenos Aires, Argentina.
When fully grown, common marmosets have a body length between 7 ½ to 9 ½ inches (14-19 cm), not including their tail. Most individuals weigh under 9 ounces (256 grams).
Common marmosets have fur that’s mottled gray, brown, and yellow, with long white ear tufts that separate their appearance from other marmosets. They have black rings that run the length of their tails, a pale face, and bright white foreheads.
Like other marmosets, common marmosets feed on tree sap, insects, and fruits. They’ll go back to old holes in trees to collect resin and gum that they eat or take with them to their nests. Snakes, owls, hawks, and mammals are all natural predators for the little monkeys.
Common marmosets live in groups that average between 8-10 individuals. Like most marmoset troops, these include only a single breeding pair and their offspring. They spend more than half their time stationery, sleeping in densely-covered trees.
Common marmosets are listed as a species of least concern by the IUCN Red List, but population numbers are declining. While very adaptable and successful outside of their native range, deforestation and habitat loss are the largest threats to common marmosets.
5. Graells’s Tamarin
Graells’s Tamarins are a subspecies of black-mantled tamarin found in the northwestern Amazon Rain Forests of southeastern Colombia, eastern Ecuador, and northeastern Peru.
When fully grown, these monkeys have an average body length between 7.8 to 12 inches (20-30 cm), an equally long tail, and they typically weigh less than 32 ounces (900 grams).
Grill’s tamarins are genetically the same as black-mantled tamarins. They have long fur and are black or dark brown all over. Unlike the marmosets previously listed, these monkeys do have opposable thumbs.
These tamarins are monogamous, and their group only has one breeding pair in it. Each year, the dominant female can give birth twice, having twins each time.
Tamarins primarily feed on fruit but will supplement their diet with tree sap, insects, nectar, and leaves. Large birds, snakes, and mammals like jaguars are their primary predators.
Graells’s Tamarins (or more accurately speaking, black-mantled tamarins) are listed as species of least concern by the IUCN Red List. Their population numbers are on the decline mostly due to deforestation, habitat loss, and capture for the pet trade.
Smallest Monkey: Honorable Mention
The five smallest monkeys in the world were all native to South America, but Africa and Asia also have tiny monkeys.
Talapoins are found in the west, central Africa, and are specifically native to Ethiopia. They’re the smallest monkeys native to the African continent and can be found in a range from Cameroon to Angola.
When fully grown, talapoin monkeys have a body length between 12.5 to 18 inches (32 to 45 cm) and a tail length between 14 to 21 inches (36 to 53 cm). They weigh between 2 to 4 pounds (0.8 to 1.9 kilograms).
Talopoins are mostly greenish-yellow to greenish-gray, with white bellies and a naked face. The fur around their faces is mostly black and they have long yellow whiskers. Their arms and legs can also be a yellowish or reddish color.
They live in troops numbering on average between 70 and 100 individuals. They tend to have small home ranges near water, but they don’t display much territorial behavior.
Most of a talapoins diet consists of insects, leaves, seeds, fruit, water plants, grubs, eggs, and small vertebrates. If they do happen to live near human settlements they’ll raid crops or dig through the trash.
Leopards, large snakes, birds, and Nile monitors are all known predators of talapoins.
Talopoins are listed by the IUCN Red List as vulnerable to extinction and their numbers are declining. Agricultural activities, civil unrest, habitat loss, and climate change are all listed as contributing factors to the decline of populations.
This little primate would be towards the top of the list if it was considered a monkey, but tarsiers are scientifically considered in a different infraorder. The Philippine tarsier is an endemic primate species found only in the Philippines.
A fully grown Philippine tarsier has a height between 3.35 to 6.30 in. They weigh only 2.8–5.6 oz (80–160 g), slightly heavier than the pygmy marmoset.
Like other tarsiers, they have massive eyes that are fixed in place in their skulls. They can rotate their head to 180 degrees to compensate for not being able to move their eyes in the socket. Most Philippine tarsiers have a fluffy gray or brown coat, a thin tail that is bald, and bald hands and feet.
Philippine tarsiers are solitary animals and spend most of the day hiding in dark areas close to the ground. At night, they are more active and primarily feed on insects and small invertebrates.
Natural predators of Philippine tarsiers include human hunters, feral cats, and sometimes large birds.
The Philippine tarsier is listed as a near-threatened species in 2008 by the IUCN Red List. More study needs to be done to get an accurate picture of the specie’s status.