Though small in size, these animals are not small on personality nor good looks! Check out these fascinating and, let's admit it, simply adorable pygmy species from all over the globe.
1. Pygmy slow loris (Nycticebus pygmaeus)
This adorable animal is native to forest habitats of Vietnam, Laos, eastern Cambodia, and China. Like its larger slow loris cousins, this species is listed as vulnerable to extinction due to habitat destruction and collection for the medicine trade and, increasingly, for pet trade. However cute it may be, you don't want a slow loris as a pet as its bite is toxic.
Photo: David Haring/Duke Lemur Center/Wikipedia
2. Kenyan pygmy chameleon (Rieppeleon kerstenii)
The Kenyan pygmy chameleon isn't the only adorably tiny pygmy species. There are also Marshall's pygmy chameleon and Spectral pygmy chameleon. Below is the Brookesia minima, or commonly called the Madagascan dwarf chameleon, the minute leaf chameleon, the pygmy leaf chameleon, the Nosy Be pygmy leaf chameleon, and the tiny ground chameleon. In other words, chameleons can blend in not only with their colors but also with their names!
3. Pygmy hippopotamus (Choeropsis liberiensis or Hexaprotodon liberiensis)
Photo: hallam creations/Shutterstock
Found in the swamps and forests of West Africa, the pygmy hippo is one of the only two species of hippo on earth, and it is endangered. The elusive and nocturnal pygmy hippo is vulnerable not only to the loss of habitat to agriculture, but also to hunting and poaching. Experts estimate there are fewer than 3,000 of these unique little guys left in the wild.
4. Pygmy marmoset (Cebuella pygmaea)
Photo: Michael Lynch/Shutterstock
With a head about the size of a human thumb, the pygmy marmoset is the smallest monkey in the world and among all primates, only the mouse lemur (listed below) is smaller. It is found in the rainforests of the Amazon Basin, where it uses its sharp nails to cling to the branches of trees and its specialized teeth to feed on tree gum. It also makes a snack of insects, fruit and nectar.
5. Pygmy owls (of the genus Glaucidium)
Photo: Howard Noel/Shutterstock
Though they may be tiny, these itty bitty raptors are fierce, and there are a bunch of them! Roughly 25-35 species of pygmy owl, or owlet, can be found all over the world, but they're mainly found in western North America and Central America. The Northern pygmy owl, pictured below, ranges all the way from Canada to Honduras. With a wingspan of only 30-40 centimeters, the raptor usually goes after insects or smaller prey like lizards, rodents and small birds.
Photo: Ronnie Howard/Shutterstock
6. Dusky pygmy rattlesnake (Sistrurus miliarius barbouri)
Photo: Kristian Bell/Shutterstock
These small rattlers grow to only about 14-30 inches in length, and are found in the southeast. Think you haven't heard of this species before? Well it goes by a handful of other names including (brace yourself) Florida ground rattlesnake, southeastern ground rattlesnake, pigmy rattlesnake, Barbour's pigmy rattlesnake, dusky pigmy rattlesnake, ground rattlesnake, hog-nosed rattler, pigmy ground rattlesnake, pigmy rattler, and small rattlesnake.
7. Pygmy mongoose (Helogale parvula)
Photo: Targn Pleiades/Shutterstock
Also called the dwarf mongoose, the only thing that separates this species from its larger cousins is its size. Not only does its diminutive stature distinguish it from its relatives, but also earns it the title of Africa's smallest carnivore. They are found in a variety of habitats but especially near termite mounds, which is where they most love to sleep.
8. Pygmy seahorse
Photo: Chanwit Polpakdee/Shutterstock
The first known pygmy seahorse species was Hippocampus bargibanti, which was actually discovered on a gorgonian coral that was being examined in a laboratory. And no wonder; the species is only about 2 centimeters in length and is exceptional at blending with its host coral. Even so, scientists have managed to discover six more species since 2000. Very little is known about these species, and they do not survive in aquariums even under the most expert of care, which is why it is good they are listed under CITES and the Australian Wildlife Protection Act.
9. Borneo pygmy elephant (Elephas maximus borneensis)
We're used to seeing the enormous size of African and Indian elephants, but the Borneo pygmy elephant is no less special despite its smaller size. According to DNA analysis, it is thought that this species was isolated about 300,000 years ago from their mainland cousins, making them a subspecies of Asian elephant. Found in tropical rainforest habitats in north Borneo, it is estimated there are fewer than 2,000 left.
10. Pygmy raccoon (Procyon pygmaeus)
Photo: Cristopher Gonzalez/flickr
The pygmy raccoon, or Cozumel raccoon, is a critically endangered species found only on Cozumel Island off the Yucatan peninsula. These tiny versions of their much larger and more populous cousins are on the verge of extinction, with only around 500 left. Recently conservation photographer Kevin Schafer spent time photographing these adorable critters in an effort to help bring awareness to them and promote conservation of the species.
11. Pygmy possum
Photo: Phil Spark/Image Library and Lock The Gate/flickr
There are five species of pygmy possum, four endemic to Australia and one found in Papua New Guinea and Indonesia. The Eastern pygmy possum, pictured above and below, is one of the Australian species. It is only about 2.8-3.5 inches long, and a 3-4.3 inch long tail. Meanwhile, the Tasmanian pygmy possum, pictured perched on the rocks in the image below, is the world's smallest possum, weighing in at only about .25 oz and growing to only about 2.5-3 inches in body length. These teensy possums need to keep a sharp eye out for owls, which readily prey on them.
Photo: Phil Spark/Lock The Gate Alliance /Flickr
Photo: Steve Lovegrove/Shutterstock
12. Pygmy mouse lemur (Microcebus myoxinus)
The (appropriately named) pygmy mouse lemur is a tiny primate only about 4.7–5.1 inches long, including the tail! Found only in a localized area of Kirindy forest in western Madagascar, the species is threatened by poachers who capture them for the pet trade.
13. Pygmy jerboa
Photo: Bell Pletsch/Wikipedia
There are seven species of pygmy jeroba, all belonging to the subfamily Cardiocraniinae. Frankly, thank goodness for multiple species because we can't get enough of the cuteness! The pygmy jeroba is considered the world's smallest rodent and, as Andrew Sullivan put it, has "a rabbit's face on tweety-pie's body". Though tiny, its long legs allow it to hop as far as nine feet in a single bound. Here is some of that famous cuteness in action:
14. Pygmy Nuthatch (Sitta pygmaea)
Photo: Martha Marks/Shutterstock
This itty bitty songbird is only about four inches long, small even for already diminutive nuthatches. Found in western North America from British Columbia to central Mexico, the species prefers pine forests, where it scrambles over trees to feed on insects and seeds. Members of this species love to flock together; nesting pairs will often have several "helper" birds participating in raising the chicks, and outside of nesting season, they often travel in loud, chattery flocks.
Photo: Tom Reichner/Shutterstock
15. Pygmy blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus brevicauda)
Photo: Shane Gross/Shutterstock
Yes, even the largest animal alive on earth today, the Blue whale, has a pygmy relative. This subspecies is found in the Indian and Pacific oceans, and grows to 79 feet (which apparently is puny in the world of Blue whales). They're described as "tadpole" shaped compared to their larger cousin, with a shorter tail and proportionately larger head. It's estimated that there are around 10,000 pygmy blue whales traveling the oceans.
16. Pygmy shrew
Photo: CreativeNature.nl /Shutterstock
There are three species of pygmy shrew in the world, the American pygmy shrew (pictured above), Eurasian pygmy shrew, and the Etruscan pygmy shrew. Of the three, the Etruscan pygmy shrew, pictured below, is the smallest and it is also considered the smallest mammal in the world by mass (the Kitti's hog-nosed bat is the smallest by skull size). The tiny creature grows to only about 1.4 inches in body length, but despite that size, it will eat 1.5 to 2 times its own body weight in food a day, scarfing down everything from small vertebrates and invertebrates, to prey as large as itself! If you think that's amazing, the 2-inch long American pygmy shrew eats three times its body weight a day, requiring it to capture and eat a meal every 15-30 minutes just to stay alive. Small body, but enormous appetite!
17. Pygmy tarsier (Tarsius pumilus)
This gremlin-looking critter made headlines when it was "rediscovered" in 2000 after one was accidentally killed in a trap set for rats. The species hadn't been spotted since the 1920s and was thought to be extinct, but finally in 2008 researchers from Texas A&M; University spotted the first living pygmy tarsiers in decades. The 4-inch long pygmy tarsiers weigh only about 2 ounces, and prey entirely on insects.
18. Pygmy rabbit (Brachylagus idahoensis)
Photo: U.S. Government National Park Service/Wikipedia
If you thought bunny rabbits couldn't get any cuter, meet the Columbia Basin pygmy rabbit. This species -- the smallest rabbit in North America -- is found only in one area of Washington state, the (you guessed it) Columbia Basin. Because of the specific location, the species is subject to threat by habitat loss and wildfires. The pygmy rabbit was listed under the Endangered Species Act in 2003 and a recovery plan, including captive breeding program and collaborative recovery effort with Oregon Zoo, Washington State University, Northwest Trek Wildlife Park, USFWS and other state wildlife agencies, is in place.
Photo: USFWS Pacific Region/flickr
Photo: USFWS Pacific Region/flickr
19. Pygmy cormorant (Microcarbo pygmeus)
It's amazing how many pygmy bird species exist, including this pygmy cormorant. A seabird of southeastern Europe and southwestern Asia, they live among reedbeds and near open waters, and are often found in rice fields and other flooded crop areas. Because they require wetlands to survive, their populations have been dramatically affected over recent decades as wetlands have been drained for agricultural purposes and other changes to their watery habitats.
Photo: Peter Gyure/Shutterstock
20. Pygmy three-toed sloth (Bradypus pygmaeus)
Last but certainly not least, not even by pygmy standards, is the pygmy three-toed sloth. This is one of the world's most endangered species with only about 100 left in the wild on Isla Escudo de Veraguas, Panama. After a controversial issue of Dallas Aquarium attempting to import eight of these sloths, supposedly for a captive breeding program in Texas, the captured sloths were released. The above video is one of them being returned to its home.