Golden-headed Lion Tamarin (Leontopithecus chrysomelas)

The golden-headed lion tamarin has nonopposable thumbs and the nails are claw-like except for the first digit on each toe. This species has golden hair on its face and forelimbs (Kinzey, 1997). This species has long digits used in the forging small insects and vertebrates (Garber, 1992). The mean adult body mass is around 500-550 grams (Rylands, 1993).

The golden-headed lion tamarin is found in the country of Brazil, and lives in the tall evergreen broadleaf tropical forests and semideciduous forests of the Atlantic coast (Rylands, 1993).
Golden-headed Lion 

Golden-headed Lion 
Tamarin ECOLOGY:
The golden-headed lion tamarin is frugivorous, feeding on soft, sweet fruits, but will also eat flowers, nectar, insects, and small invertebrates (Kleiman et al., 1988). The golden-headed lion tamarin also been seen to feed on the exudates (gums) in the Parkia pendula seed pods (Rylands, 1983). This species sleeps in tree holes during the night, and the dependence on tree holes might be an ecological constraint for the golden-headed lion tamarin (Rylands, 1993). This species is arboreal and diurnal. The golden-headed lion tamarin also uses the same hole for up to six nights in a row (Rylands, 1989). The mean group size for this species is 6.7 individuals (Rylands, 1982).

The golden-headed lion tamarin moves quadrupedally through the main canopy of the forest (Fleagle, 1988). When climbing down tree trunks, the golden-headed lion tamarin will either be in head down or tail down posture (Kleiman et al., 1988).

Food sharing is more important in this genera than other callitrichids, and is important in maintaining the social structure (Brown and Mack, 1978). In a captive experiment, Moura et al. (2010) found that breeding females will increase food sharing with current offspring, which contrasts with what is known from other callitrichid species. This species may form mixed-species groups with Callithrix kuhli (Rylands, 1993). They do not compete with each other because they forage in separate areas and occupy different niches in the environment (Rylands, 1993). The golden-headed lion tamarin forages in the upper levels of the forest and Callithrix kuhli forages in the middle and lower levels of the forest (Rylands, 1993). The golden-headed lion tamarin also has a preference to forage in epiphytic bromeliads (Rylands, 1993).

long call: The function of this call of the golden-headed lion tamarin is to maintain pair bonds and to signify a group's presence in their territory (Kinzey, 1997).
Golden-headed Lion 

suprapubic marking: This is when an individual presses the suprapubic pad against a substrate and deposits secretions by pulling itself along or by pushing itself with its feet (Epple et al., 1993).

piloerection: This is where the hair of the golden-headed lion tamarin stands on end and functions as an aggressive signal (Kinzey, 1997).


The golden-headed lion tamarin most often gives birth to twins, with triplets and quadruplets having been reported (Kinzey, 1997).

Brown, K. and Mack, D.S. 1978. Food Sharing Among Captive Leontopithecus rosalia. Folia Primatologica. Vol.29, 268-290.

Epple, G., Belcher, A.M., Kuderling, I., Zeller, U., Scolnick, L., Greenfield, K.L., Smith III, A.B. 1993. Making Sense Out of Scents: Species Differences in Scent Glands, Scent- marking Behaviour, and Scent-mark Composition in the Callitrichdae. in Marmosets and Tamarins: Systematics, Behaviour, and Ecology. ed. Anthony B. Rylands, Oxford University Press.

Fleagle, J.G. 1998. Primate Adaptation and Evolution. Academic Press.

Garber, P.A. 1992. Vertical Clinging, Small Body Size, and the Evolution of Feeding Adaptations in the Callitrichinae. American Journal of Physical Anthropology. Vol.88, 469-482.

Kinzey, W.G. 1997. Leontopithecus. in New World Primates: Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior. ed. Warren G. Kinzey, Aldine de Gruyter, New York.

Kleiman, D.G., Hoage, R.J., and Green, K.M. 1988. The Lion Tamarins, Genus Leontopithecus. in R.A. Mittermeier, A.B. Rylands, A.F. Coimbra-Filho, and G.A.B. da Fonseca (eds), Ecology and Behavior of Neotropical Primates, Vol. 2. Washington DC: World Wildlife Fund.

Moura, A.C. de A., Nunes, H.G., and Langguth, A. 2010. Food sharing in lion tamarins (Leontopithecus chrysomelas): Does foraging difficulty affect investment in young by breeders and helpers. International Journal of Primatology. Vol. 31(5), 848-862.

Rylands, A.B. 1982. The Behaviour and Ecology of Three Species of Marmosets and Tamarins (Callitrichidae, Primates) in Brazil. Unpublished Ph.D. thesis, University of Cambridge, Cambridge.

Rylands, A.B. 1983. The Behavioral Ecology of the Golden-headed Lion Tamarin, L. chrysomelas, and the Marmoset C. kuhli (Callitrichidae, Primates). Unpublished Report to the World Wildlife Fund, Washington, DC.

Rylands, A.B. 1989. Sympatric Brazilian Callitrichids: The Black Tufted-ear Marmoset, Callithrix kuhli, and the Golden-headed Lion Tamarin, Leontopithecus chrysomelas. Journal of Human Ecology. Vol.18, 679-695.

Rylands, A.B. 1993. The Ecology of the Lion Tamarins, Leontopithecus: Some Intrageneric Differences and Comparisons with Other Callitrichids. in Marmosets and Tamarins: Systematics, Behaviour, and Ecology. ed. Anthony B. Rylands, Oxford University Press.

Last Updated: January 11, 2011.
[The Primata] [Primate Evolution] [Primate Taxonomy] [Primate Conservation] [Primate Fact Sheets] [Primate Definitions] [Primate Store] [Leontopithecus Links]