Cotton-top Tamarin (Saguinus oedipus)

The cotton-top 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 most notable coloration of this species is the white colored crest from the top of the head down to over the shoulders. The mean adult body mass for this species is 432 grams (Hershkovitz, 1977).
Cotton-top Tamarin

Cotton-top Tamarin RANGE:
The cotton-top tamarin is found in the country of Colombia. The cotton-top tamarin lives in secondary growth, scrub and edge forests. It also may be found in dry tropical forests.

The cotton-top tamarin forages for a number of food items including: insects, ripe fruits, gum (exudates), and nectar (Kinzey, 1997). They can only forage upon exudates (gum) that is already coming out of the tree by other means (Kinzey, 1997). The mean group size for this species is 6 individuals (Fleagle, 1988). 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).

The cotton-top 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). McGrew (1997) found that for the cotton-top tamarin there are no sex differences with regards to philopatry and dispersion. In the cotton-top tamarin non-breeding females do not have ovarian cycles, and this may be due to scent-marking from the dominant female (French et al. , 1984). Savage et al. (1988) found that when a newly-paired female was exposed to her family scent, her first ovulation was delayed.
Cotton-top Tamarin


circumanal marking: This is when a cotton-top 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 cotton-top tamarin rubs the sternal gland against a substrate (Epple and Lorenz, 1967).

self-marking: This is when a female cotton-top tamarin marks the bottom of her heels with secretions from the circumanal gland (Epple et al., 1993).

tonguing: This is when a cotton-top 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.


The cotton-top tamarin gives birth to twins like most callitrichids (Kinzey, 1997).

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.

French, J.A., Abbott, D.H., and Snowdon, C.T. 1984. The Effect of Social Environment on Estrogen Secretion, Scent Msrking, and Socio-sexual Behavior in Tamarins (Saguinus oedipus). American Journal of Primatology. Vol. 6, 155-167.

Hershkovitz, P. 1977. Living New World Monkeys, Part 1. (Platyrrhini), with an Introduction to Primates. Chicago University Press, Chicago.

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

McGrew, W.C. 1997. Sex Differences in the Family Life of Cotton-top Tamarins: Socioecological Validity in the Laboratory. in New World Primates: Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior. ed. Warren G. Kinzey, Aldine de Gruyter, New York.

Savage, A., Ziegler, T.E., and Snowdon, C.T. 1988. Socio-sexual Development, Pair Bond Formation, and Mechanisms of Fertility Suppression in Female Cotton-top Tamarins (Saguinus oedipus oedipus). American Journal of Primatology. Vol. 14, 345-349.

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.
Cotton-top Tamarin

Cotton-top Tamarin

Last Updated: May 27, 2007.
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