8 of the Smallest Animals of Their Kind

When tiny stands tall

Blair Hedges/Penn State.

Ask anyone to name the smallest animals on Earth, and most will point to insects and single-celled organisms such as amoebas. But today we're turning our attention to the obscure animals that don't require a microscope — the animals on the next level of the small spectrum that are some of the smallest of their kind.

Take for example the Barbados threadsnake, or Leptotyphlops carlae, a creature that lives in Barbados. "The species — which is as thin as a spaghetti noodle and small enough to rest comfortably on a U.S. quarter — was discovered by Blair Hedges, an evolutionary biologist at Penn State," according to Science Daily. (Text: Katherine Butler)

Kitti's hog-nosed bat

Daniel Hargreaves.

The Kitti’s hog-nosed bat, also known as the bumblebee bat, is the smallest known bat on Earth. Critically endangered, the animal weighs around 2 grams (.07 ounces), which is roughly the weight of a dime. Further, it reaches “heights” of only about 1 1/2 inches. Craseonycteris thonglongyai is known to live in parts of Thailand and Myanmar. To the naked eye, it can seem like a hummingbird while in flight, hovering over the bamboo leaves it likes to frequent. The Kitti’s hog-nosed bat was discovered in 1973 by Thai biologist Kitti Thonglongya and named for him posthumously. Due to logging and deforestation, this tiny bat is critically endangered and is on the Thai government’s list of 12 most endangered animals. In this photo, the bat is hanging from a glove.

Musky caiman crocodile

Wikimedia Commons.

Crocodiles are generally among the most feared creatures on land and water, but this particular crocodile may not inspire terror due to its size. But don't be fooled; the musky caiman of South America can back up its bite. Patrolling freshwater riverbeds, lakes and small steams, the smallest of all crocodiles, also known as Paleosuchus palpebrosus, reaches maximum lengths of only about 4 1/2 feet in males. It also contains a heavily ossified armor which experts believe might compensate for its short stature. It is known to feast mostly on invertebrates and fish.

Vechur cow

Vicky Robinson/Flickr.

The Vechur cow, another endangered animal, is a dwarf cow from Kerala, India. A Vechur cow male generally reaches maximum heights of almost 3 1/2 feet and weights of 440 pounds. Called the smallest cow in the world, it is valued for the high-yield and high-fat milk it produces. It became known as the ideal “backyard cow” and led to a custom in Kerala of giving the cow away as a wedding gift to a daughter. In 1997, the Vechur cow was involved in a controversy with the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, United Kingdom. As Frontline reports, "genes from the Vechur cattle of Kerala had been patented by the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, United Kingdom ... as a case of alleged international gene robbery. Yet, there is no conclusive proof that such an act of biopiracy has indeed taken place."

Bee hummingbird

Wikimedia Commons.

The male bee hummingbird, also known as Zunzuncito (Mellisuga helenae), is known as the smallest living bird. (The female is slightly larger.) Living in Cuba and Isla de la Juventud, it weighs less than 1/10 ounce and reaches a length of 2 1/4 inches. Despite its buggy moniker, the bee hummingbird is 100 percent bird. Like many hummingbirds, it enjoys nectar and insects for its meals. Classified as near threatened, bee hummingbirds are known to live up to seven years in the wild, and 10 years in captivity.

Pygmy mouse lemur

Wikimedia Commons.

The pygmy mouse lemur, or Microcebus myoxinus, is a primate weighing in at almost 2 ounces. Its head and body are just over 2 inches long, though its tail is around twice that length. It lives in Madagascar on the east coast of Africa and exists as a nocturnal animal. As National Geographic reports, “Malagasy people have traditionally associated these primates with spirits because they are active at night, and perhaps because of their eerie, large-eyed stare.” They live in the forests in female-dominated groups of up to 15 lemurs. They can store up to 35 percent of their body fat in their hindquarters and tails. The pygmy mouse lemur is threatened by habitat loss in Madagascar and poachers, who capture them for the exotic animal trade.

Philippine tarsier

Wikimedia Commons.

The Philippine tarsier, or Tarsius syrichta, is a nocturnal species with a unique neck. Because the tarsier cannot move its eyes, it has special vertebrae to allow it to turn its neck 180 degrees. It is considered one of the smallest known primates and is around the size of a man’s hand. Some scientists believe the animal to be closely related to the lemur, while others believe it is more closely related to apes and monkeys. It lives on the islands of Samar, Leyte, Bohol and Mindanao in the Philippines, and is endangered.

Denise's pygmy seahorse

Wikimedia Commons.

Denise’s pygmy seahorse, also known as Hippocampus denise, lives among the coral reefs of the western Pacific at depths of 40 feet to 300 feet. It stands around 1/2 inch tall and is considered one of the best-camouflaged fishes in the oceans. Previously, the animal was mistakenly thought to be a juvenile of another of the 32 known species of seahorses. Pygmy seahorses, which are typically 10 times smaller than non-pygmy relatives, were first discovered in the late 1960s.

Monte Iberia Eleuth

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The Monte Iberia Eleuth (Eleutherodactylus iberia) is considered the smallest frog in the Northern Hemisphere. (There are smaller frogs in the Southern Hemphisphere.) It is around 3/8 inch long and can fit on a fingertip. Miguel Vences, an evolutionary biologist at the Technical University of Braunschweig in Germany, says the frog's tiny size allowed it to specialize on small prey such as ants and mice. As he told LiveScience, he smelled a bitter odor while tracking the frogs and suspected it might be coated in toxic alkaloids. Analysis confirmed the presence of muscle-paralysing poisons called pumiliotoxins that are common among poison dart frogs.