Black-chested Moustached Tamarin (Saguinus mystax)

The black-chested moustached tamarin has nonopposable thumbs and the nails of the digits are claw-like except for the first digit on each toe. Unlike the marmosets, this species, like all tamarins, has canines that are larger than the incisors, and their teeth morphology does not allow them to gnaw into the bark for gum (exudates) like the marmosets (Fleagle, 1988). The area around the mouth for the species does not have coloration, and the body hair is brown to black in color. The mean body mass for this species is 505 grams (Soini, 1982).

This species is found in Western Brazil, Eastern Peru, and far Northern Bolivia (Rylands et al., 1993). This species is found in primary and secondary forests.

The black-chested moustached tamarin forages for a number of food items including: insects, ripe fruits, gum (exudates), and nectar (Kinzey, 1997). When they feed on exudates (gum) they cling vertically with their claws embedded into the bark of the tree (Kinzey, 1997). They can only forage upon exudates (gum) that are already coming out of the tree by other means (Kinzey, 1997). The black-chested moustached tamarin forages on insects in the lower and middle levels of the forest canopy on leaves and branches (Garber, 1993). The black-chested moustached tamarin swallows seeds whole, but they come out intact in the feces. Garber and Kitron (1997) proposed that there could be three reasons for the black-chested moustached tamarin to do this: swallowing seeds whole make them less vulnerable to aerial predators (don't have spend time chewing), swallowing seeds may enhance feeding efficiency, and swallowing seeds may be used to expel parasites from the digestive tract. Soini (1993) found that the average group size is around 5.3 individuals. This is an arboreal species.

This diurnal species walks or runs quadrupedally through the forest, and is capable of leaping between branches (Snowdon and Soini, 1988). This species can also cling to the side of the tree, embedding its claws into the bark (Kinzey, 1997).

The black-chested moustached tamarin has a multimale-multifemale social system (Kinzey, 1997). The groups consist of unrelated adults, and the main mating system is polyandry, with monogamy and polygyny being reported (Kinzey, 1997). The offspring are cared for by all adult group members, which includes the males (Kinzey, 1997). The black-chested moustached tamarin forms mixed-species associations with Saguinus fuscicollis (Castro and Soini, 1978). These mixed-species associations may serve to assist in protecting from predators (Kinzey and Cunningham, 1994).


The black-chested moustached tamarin primarily scent-marks on feeding trees (Heymann, 1991). This may be because all members of the group visit that tree, so all would be able to detect the signal (Epple et al., 1993).

circumanal marking: This is when a black-chested moustached tamarin rubs the substrate with the circumanal areas in a sitting position; this is the most frequent marking behavior for this species (Epple et al., 1993).

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).

sternal marking: This is when a black-chested moustached tamarin rubs the sternal gland against a substrate (Epple and Lorenz, 1967).

tonguing: This is when a black-chested moustached tamarin rapidly moves the tongue out of its mouth across the lips. This may be a recognition signal, or could be used to communicate anger or curiosity. Head-flicking occurs with this behavior.

head-flicking: This display is when a black-chested moustached tamarin quickly moves the head region in an upward motion. This display occurs with tonguing, and is used to communicate recognition, anger, or curiosity.


The black-chested moustached tamarin gives birth to twins like most callitrichids (Kinzey, 1997).

Burton, F. 1995. The Multimedia Guide to the Non-human Primates. Prentice-Hall Canada Inc.

Castro, R. and Soini, P. 1978. Field Studies on Saguinus mystax and Other Callitrichids in Amazonian Peru. In The Biology and Conservation of the Callitrichidae. ed D.G. Kleiman. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC.

Epple, G. and Lorenz, R. 1967. Vorkommen, Morphologie und Funktion der Sternaldruse bei den Platyrrhini. Folia Primatologica. Vol.7, 98-126.

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. 1988. Primate Adaptation and Evolution. Academic Press.

Garber, P.A. 1993. Feeding, Ecology, and Behaviour of the Genus Saguinus. in Marmosets and Tamarins: Systematics, Behaviour, and Ecology. ed Anthony B. Rylands. Oxford University Press.

Garber, P.A. and Kitron, U. 1997. Seed Swallowing in Tamarins: Evidence of a Curative Function or Enhanced Foraging Efficiency? International Journal of Primatology. Vol. 18, (4), 523-538.

Heymann, E.W. 1991. Field Observations on the Scent Marking Behaviour of Moustached Tamarins, Saguinus mystax (Primates: Platyrrhini), in North-eastern Peru. Abstracts - Symposium on Chemical Signals in Vertebrates VI, Philadelphia, p. 67.

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

Kinzey, W.G. and Cunningham, E.P. 1994. Variability in Platyrrhine Social Organization. American Journal of Primatology. Vol. 34, 185-198.

Rylands, A.B., Coimbra-Filho, A.F., and Mittermeier, R.A. 1993. Systematics, Geographic Distribution, and Some Notes on the Conservation Status of the Callitrichidae. In Marmosets and Tamarins: Systematics, Behaviour, and Ecology. Oxford University Press.

Snowdon, C.T. and Soini, P. 1988. The Tamarins, Genus Saguinus. in Ecology and Behavior of Neotropical Primates, Vol. 2 PP. 223-298. Eds, R.A. Mittermeier, A.B. Rylands, A.F. Coimbra-Filho, and G.A.B. da Fonseca. Washington, DC: World Wildlife Fund.

Soini, P. 1982. Informe de Pacaya No. 6: Distribucion Geografica y Ecologia Poblacional de S. mystax (Primates, Callitrichidae). Unpublished report, Direccion Regional de Agricultura y Alimentacion, Iquitos, Peru.

Soini, P. 1993. The Ecology of the Pygmy Marmoset, Cebuella pygmaea: Some Comparisons with Two Sympatric Tamarins. in Marmosets and Tamarins: Systematics, Behaviour, and Ecology. ed Anthony B. Rylands. Oxford University Press.

Last Updated: May 27, 2007.
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