What Is the Smallest Living Mammal?

Isn’t it adorable when animals are babies? Just think about it. Small puppies jumping around with endless energy…tiny kittens with soft fur…small bunnies with twitching noses…they’re all so cute!

However, bunnies, kittens, and puppies usually grow up to be much larger animals as adults. Are there any animals that stay small throughout their lives? You might be wondering what the smallest mammal in the world is.

You’ll have to keep a close eye out for the tiny creatures that compete for the title of the smallest mammal on Earth. They’re extremely small, but they probably won’t replace kittens, puppies, and bunnies on your list of potential pets.

There are actually two mammals that can be considered the world’s smallest mammal. The winner depends on how you define “smallest.” One of the animals weighs the least out of any mammal, while the other is the shortest mammal on Earth.

The lightest mammal is the Etruscan shrew (Suncus etruscus), which weighs only two grams or less. How small is that? It’s less than the weight of a dime! Wow! That is tiny!

These tiny creatures usually grow to a length of about 2.3 inches or so. Despite their size, they have huge appetites. Etruscan shrews regularly eat twice their own body weight every day.

The Etruscan shrew is just one of the many species of shrews found all over the world. The Etruscan shrew is the smallest type, but all shrews tend to be very small. Some even have venomous saliva that helps them immobilize their prey to satisfy their large appetites!

If you’re wondering why such a small creature has such a big appetite, it’s likely due to their fast metabolism. Their tiny hearts beat at a rate of 25 beats per second. That’s equivalent to about 1,500 beats per minute. In comparison, the average human heart beats at an average rate of 72 beats per minute!

The Etruscan shrew shares the title of the world’s smallest mammal with a fascinating creature from Thailand: Kitti’s hog-nosed bat (Craseonycteris thonglongyai), also known as the bumblebee bat. It gets its nickname from its size, which is just over an inch long, making it about the size of a large bumblebee!

Thai zoologist Kitti Thonglongya discovered the bumblebee bat in 1973. It is called “hog-nosed” because its nose is pink and shaped like a pig’s snout. These tiny bats, although shorter than the Etruscan shrew, generally weigh slightly more than two grams.

Bumblebee bats typically live in groups of 100 or more in the limestone caves of Thailand. They have also been found in Myanmar.

Can you imagine encountering a swarm of these tiny bats? What do you think? Would you want to have an Etruscan shrew or a bumblebee bat as a pet?

Try It Out

The topic of today’s Wonder of the Day may be small, but the wonder itself offers a lot of learning! Keep the momentum going by trying one or more of the following activities with a friend or family member:

  • Are you intrigued by the Kitti’s hog-nosed bat? We certainly are! Why not expand your knowledge about this captivating creature? Go online and read “The Flight of the Bumblebee Bat.” This article will provide you with more information on the habitat of this tiny creature and the unfortunate decline in its population over the years.
  • After exploring the world of small creatures, you might be curious about the largest mammals on Earth. Let’s find out! Take a look at “The 10 Largest Mammals” online to get a glimpse of the biggest and heaviest mammals in each mammal group. Did any of the listed mammals surprise you? Before reading the article, what were your assumptions about the largest mammals? Share your thoughts and discuss how your assumptions were confirmed or challenged based on what you learned.
  • Up for a challenge? It’s hard to imagine a mammal that weighs less than three grams and is still alive and breathing. Can you grasp how light that is? To gain a scientific perspective, conduct your own experiments. Find a scale that accurately measures in grams. You may find one in your kitchen or borrow one from a friend. Gather a few coins and other objects from your kitchen to measure. Keep a record of these items and estimate their weights. Then, weigh each object and note the results. How accurate were your estimates? If possible, create a graph of your results and discuss them with a friend or family member. Can you find an object that weighs approximately the same as a shrew or a bumblebee bat?

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