Earth’s 6 Smallest Mammals

The smallest mammals on the earth may appear cute and defenceless, but their small size enables them do much more than just look endearing. From climbing safely across delicate branches while preying on insects to eluding predators by hiding in thin fissures, their diminutive frames work to their advantage.

Following are some of the smallest mammals

Pygmy possum

Although it gives the impression that it’s more likely to be related to a chinchilla rather than a kangaroo, the pygmy possum (Cercartetus nanus) is part and parcel of the marsupial family, which also includes wombats, koalas and Tasmanian devils. Length of pygmy possums ranges between 2 and 4 inches and they weigh anywhere between 10 and 45 grams.

Akin to their larger possum cousins, pygmy possums are nocturnal. They hang upside-down from trees employing their tails. They can be sighted in Australia, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea. In winter, the diminutive possum rolls into a tight ball, covers its eyes using its ears and enters torpor, or temporary hibernation. During this period, its body temperature and metabolism rate declines so that it doesn’t require to eat, instead getting nourishment from the fat stored in its tail.

American shrew mole

10 grams (the equivalent of two nickels) in weight, the American shrew mole (Neurotrichus gibbsii) is around 2 and a half inches in length, with an inch long tail. It is also called Gibb’s shrew mole and resides in the moist forests of the north-western US and southwestern British Columbia.

Akin to other moles, the American shrew mole has a long nose (snout) with a flattened tip and sharp, pointed nails on its paws for burrowing. In contrast to its mole relatives that devote most of their lives digging underground tunnels, however, the American shrew mole can very often be sighted foraging for food above ground. It is also capable of climbing bushes to hunt for insects.

Pygmy jerboa

The pygmy jerboa sprang into the spotlight when it became a viral YouTube sensation in 2010, looking like a cross between a baby kangaroo and a mouse. The diminutive, hyper creature is the world’s smallest rodent, with weight around 3 grams. Pygmy jerboa is about 2 inches long, with 3 to 10 inches long tail.

The pygmy jerboa (Salpingotulus michaelis) is native to Afghanistan and Pakistan, but its 25 different species live across China and Central Asia. Actually, one of its species, the long-eared Euphrates jerboa (Allactaga euphratica), is so adored in Afghanistan that in 1989 the government dedicated a stamp to the rodent.

Etruscan shrew

The Etruscan shrew (Suncus etruscus) weighs just two grams, lesser than even the weight of a dime. It can grow between 1.5 to 2 inches excluding its tail, which is 1/3rd of its body length. Its length including the tail is approximately 2.3 inches.

Appetite of this small shrew is huge and it normally eats twice its own body weight every day. It also possesses an exceedingly fast heart rate (25 beats per second or 1,500 beats per minute). Mind you, the human heart beats 72 times per minute. Etruscan shrews favour moist grassy fields to reside. These are found in Southern Europe, Arabian Peninsula, parts of the Near East, Central Asia and South Asia.

Bumblebee bat

The bumblebee bat (Craseonycteris thonglongyai) is regarded as the smallest mammal in the world, with barely 2 grams weight and 1 to 1.3 inches length, around the size of a large bumblebee. Thai zoologist Kitti Thonglongya discovered it in 1974. It is also callled Kitti’s hog-nosed bat due to its pink, pig-like snout.

The diminutive bat resides in caves in parts of western Thailand and Myanmar (formerly Burma), where it stays in colonies, usually with fewer than 100 bats.

Mouse lemur

This species unique to Madagascar is this world’s smallest primate. There are 18 known species of this primate. According to the Duke Lemur Center, on an average mouse lemur weigh between 1.5 and 3 ounces. These primates go in search for food at night, looking for insects (mostly beetles), fruit, leaves and flowers, the Duke Lemur Center reported.


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