Ever wondered what the smallest animal on earth is? You’re in the right place then – here’s our take on the smallest animals in the world.
Humans are a whole lot smaller than the largest animals on the planet, but we’re still a relatively big species, dwarfing most living creatures. There are literally millions of animal species smaller than humans, and many of those species are no bigger than a human hand.
Whilst we tend to think that bigger is better, for wildlife this isn’t necessarily the case. Being small you need fewer resources to survive and have all sorts of options for hiding places to escape from predators, or hibernate.
Below we’ve picked out 15 of the smallest animals in the world – from the world’s smallest chameleon to a frog the size of your fingernail. Our criteria for the list was that animals should be vertebrates and arachnids only (so no insects or bacteria), and we’ve tried to provide a variety of animal families (so, for example, we’ve left out the tiny Monte Iberia eleuth frog but included the even smaller Paedophryne amanuensis frog).
At the bottom of the page, we’ve also included some bonus small animals that didn’t make the list of smallest animals, but never-the-less are very small examples of their species (like a 20cm shark!).
With this in mind, here’s our pick of the world’s smallest animals:
15 of the world’s smallest animals
Pink fairy armadillo (Chlamyphorus truncatus)
Pink fairy armadillo – or ‘pichiciegos’ are the smallest species of armadillo, averaging 105 millimeters in length. They are desert-adapted animals that are burrowing and nocturnal, and endemic to the desert and scrubby grasslands of central Argentina. They’re also listed in our roundup of funniest animal names!
Philippine tarsier (Carlito syrichta)
The Philippine Tarsier lives in low lying dense forests in central and southern Philippines. Growing between 85 and 165 millimeters tall as full-grown adults the tarsier is one of the world’s smallest primates.
Barbados threadsnake (Leptotyphlops carlae)
This smallest snake in the world is a species found only on the Caribbean islands of Barbados, Barbuda, and Antigua. Measuring up to 100 millimeters, their tiny mouths only open enough to feed on microscopic insects.
Madame Berthe’s Mouse Lemur (Microcebus berthae)
Madame Berthe’s mouse lemur takes the title of the world’s smallest primate, with an average body length of 92 millimeters and a weight of around 30 grams. This solitary nocturnal primate is endemic to Madagascar.
Speckled Padloper tortoise (Homopus signatus)
Living only in South Africa’s Namaqualand region, the speckled padloper tortoise is the smallest species of turtle (yes, turtles and tortoises are from the same family!). Males average 70 millimeters long, and females 100 millimeters, living in rocky outcrops where they feed on tiny succulents and hide from predators in crevices.
Bee Hummingbird (Mellisuga helenae)
The world’s smallest bird is the bee hummingbird, which lives only in Cuba. The bird grows to 57 millimeters in length, weighs under 2 grams, and is able to beat its wings up to 200 times per second!
Baluchistan pygmy jerboa (Salpingotulus michaelis)
The dwarf three-toed jerboa also goes by the name Baluchistan pygmy jerboa, and is found in the harsh deserts of Pakistan and Afghanistan. They are the smallest known rodent, growing to 44 millimeters in length with relatively large hind legs, these creatures survive by burrowing under small bushes to feed on seeds and leaves.
Kitti’s hog-nosed bat (Craseonycteris thonglongyai)
Averaging around 30 millimeters in length, Kitti’s hog-nosed bat (also known as the bumblebee bat) is officially the world’s smallest mammal – the same size as a bumblebee. Along with their tiny size, they can be recognised by their pig-like snouts and reddish-brown coats. This endangered species lives in groups of up to 100 in riverside limestone caves in Thailand and Myanmar.
Brookesia micra chameleon (Brookesia micra)
Another animal endemic to Madagascar on this list of smallest animals, the Brookesia Micra is the smallest known chameleon. The species was discovered in 2012, with the average adult growing to 25 millimeters – small enough to sit on the top of a human finger.
Denise’s pygmy seahorse (Hippocampus denise)
This rare species of seahorse with excellent camouflage capabilities is the world’s smallest, growing up to just 24 millimeters. Also known as Denise’s pygmy seahorse or the yellow pygmy seahorse (not to be confused with the extremely slow-moving dwarf seahorse), they are found in the western Pacific, from Indonesia to Micronesia.
Jaragua dwarf gecko (Sphaerodactylus ariasae)
Commonly known as the Jaragua dwarf gecko, this lizard grows to 18 millimeters. Perhaps because of its tiny size, the lizard has only been seen in Dominican Republic’s Jaragua National Park.
Arboreal minute slamander (Thorius Arboreus)
These tiny salamanders are found on forest floors in Oaxaca, Mexico, and are easily recognised by their big, bug-like eyes. Their long, thin bodies average just 17 millimeters in length, 1 millimeter shorter than the Jaragua dwarf gecko, and is thought to be the world’s smallest reptile
Paedocypris fish (Paedocypris)
With one adult specimen measuring just 7.9 millimeters in length, the Paedocypris is the smallest fish known to science. Found in swamps and streams in the Indonesian islands of Borneo, Sumatra, and Bintan. The fish are so small they don’t even have a complete skull, leaving parts of their tiny brain with no covering of bone.
Paedophryne amauensis frog (Paedophryne amauensis)
The Paedophryne amauensis frog holds the titles for the world’s smallest frog, amphibian and vertebrate, coming in at just 7.7 millimeters in length. First discovered in New Guinea in 2009, these frogs are extremely difficult to find in the wild as they camouflage themselves in leaf litter on the floors of tropical forests.
The smallest animal in the world – Spruce-fir moss spider (Microhexura montivaga)
What is the smallest animal in the world? By our criteria the spruce-fir moss spider fits the bill at a whoppingly tiny 4 millimeters. Living the Appalachian Mountains in the USA, the world’s smallest animal is sadly is on the Endangered Species List due to increasing shortages of moss mats that are critical to the spider’s survival.
Other notable small animals
Smallest monkey: Pygmy marmoset (Callitrichidae Cebuella)
Possibly the cutest tiny animal on this list, the pygmy marmoset is officially the world’s smallest monkey (and an animal that mates for life). Excluding their tail, these South American monkeys have an average height of just 130 millimeters. Pygmy marmosets are usually found in river-edge forests, foraging for insects under cover.
Smallest cat: Rusty spotted cat (Prionailurus rubiginosus)
One of the cat family’s smallest members (along with the black footed-cat), the rusty spotted cat grows to around 400 millimeters long excluding the tail. The species is categorised by IUCN as near threatened and found in small, fragmented areas of India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka.
Smallest antelope: Royal antelope (Neotragus pygmaeus)
This species of west African antelope is considered the smallest antelope in the world, growing to just 250 millimeters.
Smallest leproid: Pymgy rabbit (Brachylagus idahoensis)
The Pygmy Rabbit lives on the west coast of the USA, and is the smallest species of rabbit, averaging 260 millimeters in length. They tend to live in areas with deep soil and tall, dense sagebrush they use for food and cover.
Smallest shark: Dwarf lanternshark (Etmopterus perryi)
The dwarf lanternshark is the smallest species of shark on earth, growing to around 210 millimeters. The sharks contain light-emitting organs that help camouflage them from predators below and attract small creatures to hunt. (Meet some other brilliantly bioluminescent animals.)
Smallest mammal by weight: Etruscan shrew (Callitrichidae Cebuella)
Including a short tail the adult Etruscan shrew grows to an average of 58 millimeters. It’s a slightly longer mammal than the Kitti’s hog-nosed bat, but is smaller in weight. Eating up to 25 times a day due to their high metabolism, these tiny mammals are also distinguished by having the largest brain to body weight ratio of any animal in the world!
Smallest dolphin: Vaquita (Phocoena sinus)
The vaquita is an extremely rare dolphin species on the brink of extinction, with an estimated 12 living in the Gulf of California. Females are the larger of the two sexes, and grow to around 1,400 millimeters.
Smallest cow: Vechur (Bos taurus indicus)
Considered the smallest breed of cattle, the Vechur cow is found only in India and grows to an average length of 1,240 millimeters and height of 87o centimeters.
And that’s your lot for our pick of the world’s smallest animals. What do you think – did any of these tiny animals surprise you? Or perhaps we’ve left out an obvious pick to add to the smallest animals list.
Please join in and let us know your thoughts, or any experiences you have of small animals in the comments section below!