Publications

Proyecto Titi has been actively involved in studying wild cotton-top tamarins for many years at our field sites in Colosó, Santa Catalina, and San Juan Nepomuceno. We present a short overview of some of our publications on the behavior, reproductive patterns, and parental care strategies of this fascinating primate. As habitat for cotton-tops continues to be threatened in Colombia, it is essential that we document how this will effect this critically endangered primate for the future. We will continue to post information on our publications as they become available.

CONSERVATION STATUS AND PROGRAM

Savage, A., Soto, L., Lamilla, I. and Guillen, R. 2009.  Cotton-top tamarin Saguinus oedipus (Linnaeus, 1758). In: R. A. Mittermeier et al., Primates in Peril: The World’s 25 Most Endangered Primates 2008–2010, pp.68-71. IUCN/SSC Primate Specialist Group

Here we report on the fifth iteration of the biennial listing of a consensus of 25 primate species considered to be amongst the most endangered worldwide and the most in need of urgent conservation measures. The meeting and the review of the list of the World's 25 Most Endangered Primates resulted in its official endorsement by the IPS, and became as such a combined endeavor of the Primate Specialist Group, the IPS, and Conservation International. The list of the world's 25 most endangered primates for the biennium 2008–2010 was drawn up at an open meeting held during the 22nd Congress of the International Primatological Society, Edinburgh, UK, 3–8 August 2008. 

Savage, A & Guillen, R. 2012.  Conserving cotton-top tamarins Saguinus oedipus through effective captive management, pubic engagement, and in situ conservation efforts.  International Zoo Yearbook 46: 56-70.

The Cotton-top tamarin Saguinus oedipus is a Critically Endangered primate found only in Colombia. While a popular exhibit animal in zoos and an important research subject in the study of colon cancer and reproductive biology and behaviour, efforts to create a self-sustaining captive-breeding population for this species have been very successful. With the wealth of information on biology, captive management and status in the wild, efforts are now focused on ensuring that Cotton-top tamarins continue to remain in the wild. With large-scale development threatening some of the last remaining forested areas for the species and its popularity in the illegal pet trade, compounded by the constant extraction of forest resources by impoverished communities, strategies are needed to protect this species effectively for the future. Here, an overview is presented of the successful, multidisciplinary conservation programme developed by Proyecto Tití to involve local communities, national and international agencies, and the conservation community in the long-term protection of Colombia’s most threatened species.
 

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FIELD TECHNIQUES

Savage, A., Giraldo, L.H., Blumer, E.S., Soto, L.H., Burger, W., and Snowdon, C.T. Field techniques for monitoring cotton-top tamarins (Saguinus oedipus oedipus) in Colombia. American Journal of Primatology 31: 189-196.

We present reliable field techniques for capturing, anesthetizing, and identifying individual cotton-top tamarins (Saguinus oedipus oedipus). A new technique is presented for radio-tracking small bodied primates. A backpack-style harness was designed to carry a transmitter. This system appears effective in minimizing potential injury and does not appear to interfere with the normal behavior of the animal.

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POPULATION

Savage, A., Thomas, L., Leighty, K.A., Soto, L.H., Medina, F.S. (2010) Novel survey method finds dramatic decline of wild cotton-top tamarin population. Nature Communications. 1:30, DOI: 10.1038/ncomms1030

The cotton-top tamarin ( Saguinus oedipus ) is a critically endangered primate, endemic to the tropical forests of Colombia. Population monitoring is essential to evaluate the success of conservation efforts, yet standard survey methods are ineffective because animals fl ee silently before they are seen. We developed a novel technique that combines the use of playbacks of territorial vocalizations with traditional transect surveys. We used remote sensing to identify potential habitat within the species ’ historic range, and visited the 27 % that we could survey safely. Of this, only 99 km 2 was extant forest, containing an estimated 2,045 animals (95 % confi dence interval 1,587 – 2,634). Assuming comparable densities in non-surveyed areas, approximately 7,394 wild cotton-top tamarins remain in Colombia. With 20 – 30,000 animals exported to the United States in the late 1960s, this must represent a precipitous decline. Habitat destruction and capture for the illegal pet trade are ongoing. Urgent conservation measures are required to prevent extinction in the wild.

Savage, A., Thomas, L., Feilen, K.L., Soto, L.H., Pearson, M., Medina, F.S., Emeris, G., Guillen, R.R. 2016.  An assessment of the population of cotton-top tamarins (Saguinus oedipus) and their habitat in Colombia. PLoS One 11 (12) e0168324.

Numerous animals have declining populations due to habitat loss, illegal wildlife trade, and climate change. The cotton-top tamarin (Saguinus oedipus) is a Critically Endangered primate species, endemic to northwest Colombia, threatened by deforestation and illegal trade. In order to assess the current state of this species, we analyzed changes in the population of cotton-top tamarins and its habitat from 2005 to 2012. We used a tailor-made “lure strip transect” method to survey 43 accessible forest parcels that represent 30% of the species’ range. Estimated population size in the surveyed region was approximately 2,050 in 2005 and 1,900 in 2012, with a coefficient of variation of approximately 10%. The estimated population change between surveys was -7% (a decline of approximately 1.3% per year) suggesting a relatively stable population. If densities of inaccessible forest parcels are similar to those of surveyed samples, the estimated population of cotton-top tamarins in the wild in 2012 was 6,946 individuals. We also recorded little change in the amount of suitable habitat for cotton-top tamarins between sample periods: in 2005, 18% of surveyed forest was preferred habitat for cotton-top tamarins, while in 2012, 17% percent was preferred. We attribute the relatively stable population of this Critically Endangered species to increased conservation efforts of Proyecto Tití, conservation NGOs, and the Colombian government. Due to continued threats to cotton-top tamarins and their habitat such as agriculture and urban expansion, ongoing conservation efforts are needed to ensure the long-term survival of cotton-top tamarins in Colombia. 

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HABITAT ANALYSIS

NASA Develop: Program Utilizing NASA Earth Observations to Enhance the Conservation Efforts of Colombia’s Most Endangered Primate, the Cotton-top Tamarin (Saginus oedipus). 

To investigate cotton-top tamarin habitat, Proyecto Tití partnered with the NASA Develop program to begin to identify suitable habitat for long-term protection.   This project utilized Landsat 5 Thematic Mapper (TM), Landsat 7 Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus (ETM+) and Landsat 8 Operational Land Imager (OLI) for the years 1991, 2002, and 2014 respectively, and integrated vegetation field transect data within the historic range. 

With this data the following was produced: 1) a historical time series illustrating deforestation within the Proyecto Tití study area of tamarin habitat; 2) a current, broad-scale land use/land cover map covering the entire historic range of the cotton-top tamarin, attempting to distinguish suitable habitat; and 3) a connectivity map identifying forest patches suitable for tamarin habitat and forecasting areas in need of protection and restoration. Field data collected by Proyecto Tití was used to conduct an accuracy assessment and validate the forest type. The incorporation of NASA Earth observations and technology will allow Proyecto Tití's efforts to go farther by providing partners with visual tools and quantitative information regarding this critical animal habitat that can be used both internally, and shared with the local community.

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DIET - PLANT SPECIES CONSUMED BY COTTON-TOP TAMARINS IN COLOMBIA

Most callitrichids eat the fruits of trees, vines and epiphytes, insects, newly sprouted leaves, buds or flowers, and small vertebrates. Some species also rely on tree exudates (gum and sap).

The examination of diet showed that cotton-tops in Santa Catalina and Colosó feed from more than 50 and 60 different tree species, respectively, in at least 45 families. With fruit making up the largest portion of the diet, cotton-top tamarins may be important seed dispersal agents for trees in the rainforest. Garber (1986) found the planting of defecated seeds from two tamarin species yielded a germination success rate of 70%, Callitrichids are likely influencing both regeneration and structure of the forest.

The diet is highly seasonal, correlating with the rainy season when most trees are fruiting. When fruit is scarce, the proportion of gums, nectar, and insects in the diet increases.

Food Type:  F = Fruit, G = Gum, N = Nectar, Fl = Flower
Field Site: C = Coloso, SC = Santa Catalina, SJ = San Juan Nepomuceno

Family Species Common Name Food Type Field Site Image
Acanthaceae Tichanthera sp. Palo de agua F C
Amaranthaceae Chamissoa altissima Pintaboyo F SC 1,2
Anacardiaceae Anacardium excelsum Caracolí F, G C
Astronium graveolens Santa cruz G SC, C
Mangifera indica Mango F C
Spondias mombin Hobo F, G C, SC 1,2,3
Anonaceae Annona purpurea Guanábana matimbáa N SC
Ephedranthus colombianus Yaya prieta F C
Apocynaceae Formosia sp. Peronillo Fl C
Rauvolfia ligustrina Venenito F SC
Thevetia ahouai Tomatillo F SC
Araceae Philodendron cf. hederaceum Abrazadera F SC,C
Arecaceae Desmoncus orthacanthos Matamba F C, SC
Sabal mauritiiformis Palma amarga F SC
Bignoniaceae
Anemopaegma orbiculatum Bejuco de bacota N SC
Cydista aequinoctialis Bejuco colorao N SC
Macfadyena unguis-cati Bejuco uñita N SC
Pithecoctenium crucigerum Bejuco canastilla N SC
Tabebuia sp. Pijiño blanco F C
Tanaecium jaroba Bejuco calabacilla N SC
Bombacaceae
Cavanillesia platanifolia Macondo G SC
Ceiba pentandra Ceiba bonga G SC
Pachira quinata Ceiba colorada N SC
Pseudobombax septenatum Ceiba Fl C
Boraginaceae Cordia bicolor Muñeco F C
Cordia dentata Uvito F C, SC 1,2
Cordia lucidula Arato F SC
Burseraceae Bursera simarouba Indio en cuero G SC 1
Cactaceae
Acanthocereus pitajaya Pitahaya F, T SC, C
Pereskia guamacho Guamacho F SC, C

Cactus
C
Caesalpiniaceae Brownea ariza Arizal B C
Cassia grandis Cañandonga G SC
Capparidaceae Capparis baducca Guanabanito F C, SC 1,2,3,4,5
Crataeva tapia Naranjuelo F SC
Caricaceae Carica papaya Papaya
F C
Celastraceae Maytenus longipes Corocito F C, SC
Combretaceae Combretum fruticosum Peinecillo N C, SC 1,2
Cucurbitaceae Momordica charantia Balsamina F SC 1,2,3,4
Ebenaceae Diospyros inconstans Juan de dios F SC 1,2
Elaeocarpaceae Muntingia calabura Periquito F C 1,2
Erythroxylaceae Erythoxylon sp. Coca de mico G C
Euforbiaceae Alcalifa sp. Arara F C
Cnidosculus urens
G SC, C
Hura crepitans Ceiba de leche Fl SC
Fabaceae Acacia affinis Bejuco zarza G
Lonchocarpus cf. pictus Majagua de gallina G SC
Swartzia simplex Arara F SC
Flacourtiaceae Casearia corymbosa Vara de humo F C
Mayna grandifolia Puerco espín F SC 1,2
Xylosma intermedium Carita de santo F C, SC
Hippocrateaceae Hippocratea cf. volubilis Bejuco corralero G SC
Lauraceae Nectandra membranaceae Aguacatillo G C
Lecytidaceae Lecythis minor Olla de mono G SC, C
Leguminosae Albizzia caribaea Guacamayo F, G C, SC
Enterolobium cyclocarpum Orejero F, G C 1,2,3,4,5
Enterolobium sp. Chicho G C 1
Inga hayesii Guamito F SC
Mimosa sp. Zarza G C
Phitecellobium himeanaefolium Loro F C
Pithecellobium lanceolatum Tiribuchi F SC
Pithecellobium samán Campano G C 1,2
Loganiaceae Strychnos tarapotensis Bejuco alambre F SC
Loranthaceae Phoradendron quadrangulare Cagadita de pájaro F C, SC
Malpighiaceae Malpighia punicifolia Cerezo montana F C
Malvaceae Malvaviscus arboreus Quesito F SC 1,2,3,45
Meliaceae Cedrella odorata Cedro G C
Trichilia acuminata Negro viejo F C, SC 1,2,3,4
Trichilia appendiculata Mangle F, G C
Trichilia hirta Hobo Verde F SC, C
Trichilia martiana Vara de piedra F C, SC
Menispermaceae Cissampelos pareira Nigua de puerco F SC
Odontocarya tamoides Nigua de puerco F SC
Mimosaceae Zygia inaequalis Guamo arroyero G SC
Moraceae Brosimum alicastrum Guáimaro F C, SC
Brosimum guianense Fruta de pava F SC
Brosimum sp. Caucho F, Fl C
Cecropia obtusifolia Guarumo F C
Cecropia sp. Yarumo F, Fl C
Chlorophora tinctoria Mora F C 1,2,3
Ficus dendroica Suan F C
Ficus pallida Cope F C
Maclura tinctoria Mora F SC
Pouruma sp. Uva de monte F C
Sorocea sprucei Pempinillo F SC
Myrcinaceae Stylogyne turbacensis Patica de paloma F C, SC 1,2,3,4,5
Myrtaceae Eugenia acapulcensis Escobillo F C, SC
Psidium guajaba Guayabo macho F, G C
Nyctaginaceae Neea nigricans Buchesapo F, FI C, SC
Phytolaccaceae Trichostigma octandrum Bejuco de burro F SC 1,2,3
Piperaceae Piper aduncum Cordoncillo F SC
Polygonaceae Coccoloba caracasana Uvita roja F SC
Coccoloba coronata Juan garrote Fl SC
Rubiaceae
Alibertia edulis Yaya de cajon F SC
Ciniciolia spinosa Fruta de pava F C
Clavija latifolia Huevo de icotea
F, FL 1,2,3
Genipa americana Jagua F C, SC
Genipa caruto Encerao F C
Genippa americana Zapatillo F, Fl C
Pittoniotis trichantha Pigiño blanco F SC, C
Psychotria sp. Ají de monte F SC
Randia armata Maria angola de espina F C, SC 1,2,3
Randia formosa Maria angola F SC
Rondeletia purdiei Bola de titi F SC
Santalaceae Acanthosyris colombiana Yaya de sangre F SC
Sapindaceae Allophyllus Crispeta F SC
Matayba scrobiculata Guacharaco F SC
Melicoca bijuga Mamón F C
Paullinia cururu Ojo de perdiz F SC
Paullinia pinnata Carne asada F C, SC 1,2,3,4
Sapindus saponaria Jaboncillo G SC
Talisia olivaeiformis Mamón de maría F SC

Manao F, G C
Sapotaceae Manilkara chicle Níspero F C
Manilkara sp. Níspero de monte F C
Sideroxilon persimile Guayacán de bola F SC
Urea tamarindoides Tamarindo F C

Costilla de vaca F C
Solanaceae Solanum enoplacalyx Una de gato F SC
Sterculiaceae Basiloxylum excelsum Zapato G C
Guazuma ulmifolia Guácimo F C, SC 1,2,3,4,5
Luehea sp. Cabo de hacha F C
Luehea sp. Molenillo F C
Sterculia apétala Camajón F C
Ulmaceae Celtis iguaneus Maíz tostado F C
Urticaceae Urera baccifera Pringamoza F C, SC
Verbenaceae Vitex compresa Aceituno F SC
Vitaceae Cissus sicyoides Bejuco uva F SC


Cachicarnero F C


Huevo de icotea F SC 1,2,3


Nuez moscado F C


Varita de lazo F SC

References:

Castillo, E.F.G. 1996. Contribucion al conocimiento de la ecologia y etologia del titi de cabeza blanca (Saguinus oedipus – Linnaeus 1758), en la Serrania de la Coraza, Montes de Maria, Coloso, Sucre-Colombia. B.S. Thesis. Universidad Nacional de Colombia.

Molina, G.M.R. 2001. Inventario floristico de un bosque seco tropical (bs-T) en la hacienda “El Ceibal,” Santa Catalina (Bolivar), con énfasis en las especies asociadas a la dieta del tití cabeciblanco (Saguinus oedipus). B.S. Thesis. Universidad Nacional de Colombia.

Rizkalla, C. 2000. Feeding ecology and conservation of the cotton-top tamarin (Saguinus oedipus) in Colombia. M.E.M. Thesis. Duke University.

Garcia-Castillo, F.  & Defler, T. R.  2018. The diet of Saguinus oedipus in a dry tropical forest and the importance of Spondias mombin Gum as a “Fallback Food.”  Primate Conservation  (32) 67-79

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COTTON-TOP TAMARIN VOCALIZATIONS

Cotton-top tamarins have an extensive vocal repertoire which is derived from the variation of two basic elements and the sequential combination of those elements (Cleveland and Snowdon 1982). The vocalizations described here were recorded over 18 months from a captive colony in Madison, Wisconsin with a Uher 4200 stereo tape recorder using a Sennheiser MD 441 microphone and either Scotch 209 or 177 low noise recording tape. Recordings were done at 9.5 cm/s. Sound spectrograms were made on a Kay Sonagraph Model 6061 B using a narrow band pass filter (90 Hz) over the frequency range of 160 to 16,000 Hz.

By assessing the structural and behavioral correlates of the vocalizations, 38 distinct sounds or combinations of sounds were identifies. The simplify the description of the repertoire, the sounds were grouped into six major classes based on structure.

Click on the Spectrogram to Hear the Vocalization

Class 1: Single Frequency Modulated Syllables

A. Short Duration Calls – Chirps were categorized according to four structural parameters: presence or absence of stem upsweep, duration, peak frequency, and frequency change. See Table 1 for call parameters.
Type A Chirp (Mobbing) During mobbing behavior, to sudden animated stimuli. By some groups to preferred foods. Rarely given to acoustical stimuli.
Type B Chirp (Directed Investigatory) To human observers or familiar object.
Type C Chirp (Pre-food) During approach to food or when individual approaches object that will be hand-held and orally explored.
Type D Chirp (Post-food) When animal actually possesses food or object.
Type E Chirp (General Alarm) To sudden visual and acoustic stimuli. To sudden leaping movement by group members if animal startled.

Type F Chirp (Intergroup) During intergroup antiphonal calling of Normal Long Calls. To audible outgroup vocalizations.

Type G Chirp (Nonspecific Investigatory) During relaxed environmental investigation.
Type H Chirp (Mild Alarm) To novel visual stimuli at close proximity.

Table 1. Parameters differentiating types of chirps.

Call Type Stem Upsweep Duration (ms) Peak Frequency Frequency Change
Type A Yes 79.9 ± 29.7 8.7 ± 1.7 5.9 ± 1.6
Type B Yes 100.0 ± 26.0 6.0 ± 1.0 2.0 ± 0.6
Type C Yes 25.2 ± 5.4 10.4 ± 1.2 3.4 ± 1.0
Type D Yes 42.6 ± 10.2 8.2 ± 0.7 3.3 ± 1.5
Type E Yes 36.9 ± 10.4 8.0 ± 1.6 3.1 ± 1.2
Type F No 56.0 ± 19.7 4.1 ± 0.7 1.0 ± 0.4
Type G No 57.9 ± 10.7 9.0 ± 1.1 6.1 ± 0.7
Type H No 20.8 ± 4.1 5.5 ± 0.8 2.9 ± 0.8

B. Long Duration Calls

Squeal During active physical contact by the passive participant: during wrestle play or face pressing between two individuals.
Slicing Scream Same as Type A Chirp

Class 2: Pulsed Vocalizations

Twitter Same as Squeal. Results from intensification of Squeal Context.
Hooked Chatter Same as Type D Chirp (food related). As infants approach.
Chevron Chatter Towards humans when animal is netted or placed in small cage. Also by some animals in response to human approaching them closely in home cage.
Type F Chirp Trill Same as for Type F Chirp. Tilling indicative of a higer state of arousal than Type F Chirp alone.
Type H Chirp Trill Same as for Type H Chirp.
Type A Trill During Antiphonal Call play interactions prior to attempted play mounts.
Type B Trill By individuals as they approach young infants to retrieve them. Also given by animals carrying young infants when infants move, vocalize or attempt to climb off.

Type C Trill Signals the end of a nursing bout, interspersed with Terminally Modulated Whistles.

Class 3: Single Whistles

Squeak In vigilance, foraging and investigatory activities. Increase in rate of emission with increase in arousal.
Large Initially Modulated Whistle Given greater than 0.6 m from other animals in low arousal situation. Not given during resting, grooming, nursing, except occasionally when animals break contact. Occurs during Antiphonal Call play
Small Initially Modulated Whistle Same as Large Initially Modulated Whistle except given at distances less than 0.6 m from other group members.
Terminally Modulated Whistle By individuals in resting contact, during grooming, by mothers during nursing, by parents and siblings retrieving and carrying infants.
Flat Whistle Given following Type F, H or E Chirp Trills

Class 4: Multiple Whistle Calls

Ascending Multi-Whistle (Intragroup) By animals in huddles, by mothers nursing infants.
Descending Multi-Whistle (Intragroup) Same as Ascending Multi-Whistle and Terminally Modulated Whistle. More commonly given to infants.
Partial Quiet Long Call (Intragroup) By mothers nursing infants. By subadults during close huddle contact and pauses during wrestle play.
Rapid Whistles (Intragroup) Before an approach to mount during Anti-phonal Call play.
Quiet Long Call(Intergroup) To audible Single Whistles, Chevron Chatters, Type H Trills, Twitters, Long Calls from unfamiliar animals. Occasionally given to no obvious stimulus during group huddles.
Normal Long Call (Intergroup) To distant non-group Combination Long Calls, Normal Long Calls, Type F Chirps. During isolation.

Class 5. Combination Vocalizations

Small Modulated Multi-Level Same as Small Initially Modulated Whistle
Large Modulated Multi-Level Same as Large Initially Modulated Whistle
Combination Long Call During play, isolation or when socially disturbed. When animal not in contact.
Inverted U + Whistle In alarm to faint acoustical stimuli after an alert has been signaled.
Type F Chirp + Whistle By individuals less confident than when giving Normal Long Calls. As response to Combination or Normal Long Calls or non-group Type F Chirps. In isolation.

Class 6. Noisy Calls

Squawk By recipient of aggressive behavior. In some animals as an appeasement gesture, by others as an invitation for grooming.
Scream When animals attempt to steal food.
Sneeze After eating, drinking water, sniffing or as result of rubbing nose on substrate or with hand.

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DEMOGRAPHY AND GROUP COMPOSITION

Savage A, Giraldo LH, Blumer ES, Soto LH, Snowdon CT. 1996a. Demography, group composition, and dispersal in wild cotton-top tamarin (Saguinus oedipus) groups. American Journal of Primatology 37:23-32.

Tamarins live in social groups of 2-10 individuals. Although, there have been a few cases of reported polygamy, most groups contain only one reproductively active male and female (Neyman 1977). Females, on average, give birth to twins annually. Social groups appear relatively stable, with an average rate of emigration of 0.71 ± 1.18 individuals/group/year. Males and females disperse to neighboring groups equally, however, adults move more frequently than juveniles and infants. Immigrant males are more likely to enter a group following the death of a resident male. Reproductive success of these immigrant males is difficult to quantify without paternity tests, however, an immigrant male may release subordinate females from reproductive suppression. A novel male avoids the constraints of incest avoidance, and may thus stimulate a reproductively inhibited female. If a female immigrates, she does not necessarily assume the breeding position. Emigration increased to 2.8 individuals/group/year during a drought , suggesting movement between groups may be a result of extreme environmental conditions leading to increased competition for limited resources.

A proposed model to illustrate the potential reproductive strategies of cotton-top tamarins:

Male Reproduction

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REPRODUCTIVE STRATEGIES AND HORMONE ANALYSES

Savage, A., Soto, L., Medina, F., Emeris, G., & Soltis, J. (2009). Litter Size and Infant Survivorship in Wild Groups of Cotton-top Tamarins (Saguinus oedipus) in Colombia. American Journal of Primatology, 71, 1-5.

Developing successful conservation programs for endangered primates requires a complete understanding of the factors involved in successful reproduction and causes of infant mortality. In contrast to other nonhuman primates, callitrichids are unusual as litter size can vary between one to five offspring in captivity. Twins tend to be the norm for most callitrichids, but the incidence of triplet and quadruplet births can account for nearly 10–50% of the litters born in captive colonies. Litter size significantly influences the survivorship of infants with twins having a higher survivorship than triplets or quadruplets. In the wild, reports suggest that twin and singleton litters were the norm in most callitrichids studied to date. Incidence of triplet births is very low in the wild, but there have been triplets observed in a Golden Lion Tamarin family where none of the offspring survived and in a Common Marmoset family where evidence was found of survival.

In our study, there were fifty-eight litters from 21 females recorded at the two field sites. Twins were most common (81%), followed by singletons (16%), and we had the first report of triplet births (3%) in wild cotton-top tamarins. Mortality was not uniformly distributed across time with 33% of cases confined to the first week. Determining the sex of the offspring rarely occurred if infants died or were missing from the group, and carcasses of infants were rarely found. Thus, calculating an accurate sex ratio of infants was not possible. However, surviving offspring were comprised of 42 males and 32 females. Determining the immediate cause of mortality was also challenging. Two of the six carcasses that were recovered were too decomposed to determine the cause of death. The remaining four carcasses were from the two observed triplet births and malnutrition was deemed the cause of death.

Fourteen females produced more than one litter. For these females, the mean survival rate to 6 months for first litters was 57%710.3 SEM but the mean across subsequent litters rose to 86%77.6. However, the effects of parity were not as clear. One primiparous female (Nadia) left her family group and assumed the position of the reproductively active female in a neighboring group and she gave birth to twins that survived to 6 months. However, two primiparous females (Milena and Tamara) were identified in the Santa Catalina sample but do not represent ‘‘typical’’ primiparous females as they were in groups containing two pregnant females. Milena successfully cared for her twins until one was observed missing from the group at week 8 and Tamara’s twins were ‘‘kidnapped’’ by her mother and subsequently died. Litter size appeared to influence survival with triplet litters showing a lower infant survival to 6 months (33%) than twins (80%) or singletons (77%), although the number of triplet litters (n52) is too small for statistical analysis.

This study confirms that infant survival to 6 months of age in the wild (78% twins and 88% singletons), gathered from two distinct field sites, and was greater than has been reported in captive colonies. Similar to captive colonies mortality was highest during the first week of life; however, given the low rate of carcass retrieval we cannot determine the cause of mortality and infant mortality associated after 20 days may be related to the development of infant independence. Given that the parity of the majority of our study females could not be determined, we did find that infant mortality was higher in first litters than subsequent litters born to wild cotton-top tamarin females. We were unable to find a significant relationship between infant mortality and group size or the number of adult males in a social group. However, there was a trend toward higher mortality with a shorter inter-birth interval. The number of females that produce multiple litters in 1 year is rare, but infants born out of the normal birthing season may be at risk as food may not be as plentiful for a nursing female.

Wheaton CJ, Savage A, Soto L, Medina F, Emeris G, Guillen R. 2012. Tolerance may lead to loss of tenure in tamarin societies: Use of non-invasive faecal reproductive steroid monitoring and behaviour observations to reveal reproductive and life-history traits in wild female cotton-top tamarins (Saguinus oedipus) in Colombia. Wien Tierärztl Monat 99 (Suppl 1): 16. 

Cotton-top tamarins (Saguinus oedipus) are a critically endangered primate found only in Colombia. Efforts to conserve this species are centered on developing effective management plans that integrate biological and reproductive information regarding population dynamics and factors that influence their survival through pressures of habitat loss. Here, we report 13 years of data on reproductive and life-history traits for wild female cotton-top tamarins (Saguinus oedipus) in Colombia.  As part of our long-term field observations on multiple groups, all animals have been individually identified and receive annual exams that include physical and reproductive assessments. Field observations were conducted three to five times weekly by a team of observers to record group composition, inter-group interactions, aggression, births and to collect faecal samples. A total of 8,684 faecal samples were collected from 41 females in 19 family groups over 13 years. Faecal pregnanediol-3-glucuronide and oestrone conjugate (PdG antisera P70; E1C antisera R522-2, C. Munro, UC Davis, CA) analyses were used to assess reproductive condition of the dominant breeding female, daughters and unrelated or immigrating females through changes in reproductive tenure in each group. Average reproductive tenure was 2.4 ± 2.2 years (range 0.2 to 8.2; n=19). We observed 17 occurrences where the dominant female was evicted from the group. In nine of these cases (52.9%), the dominant female was pregnant when evicted. Daughters remained suppressed until 11.1± 0.1 months of age (n=5). However, we observed four instances where mother and daughter were pregnant in the same group. Loss of reproductive tenure was primarily associated with immigration and aggression from unrelated adult females (15 of 17 cases; 88.2 %). Of these, eight of the immigrating females were pregnant. Pressures from habitat loss may increase population density and contact with adjacent groups which may impact lifetime reproductive success in wild female cotton-top tamarins.

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INFANT DEVELOPMENT AND PARENTAL CARE

Savage, A., Soto, L., Medina, F., Emeris, G., & Soltis, J. (2009). Litter Size and Infant Survivorship in Wild Groups of Cotton-top Tamarins (Saguinus oedipus) in Colombia. American Journal of Primatology, 71, 1-5.

Developing successful conservation programs for endangered primates requires a complete understanding of the factors involved in successful reproduction and causes of infant mortality. In contrast to other nonhuman primates, callitrichids are unusual as litter size can vary between one to five offspring in captivity. Twins tend to be the norm for most callitrichids, but the incidence of triplet and quadruplet births can account for nearly 10–50% of the litters born in captive colonies. Litter size significantly influences the survivorship of infants with twins having a higher survivorship than triplets or quadruplets. In the wild, reports suggest that twin and singleton litters were the norm in most callitrichids studied to date. Incidence of triplet births is very low in the wild, but there have been triplets observed in a Golden Lion Tamarin family where none of the offspring survived and in a Common Marmoset family where evidence was found of survival.

In our study, there were fifty-eight litters from 21 females recorded at the two field sites. Twins were most common (81%), followed by singletons (16%), and we had the first report of triplet births (3%) in wild cotton-top tamarins. Mortality was not uniformly distributed across time with 33% of cases confined to the first week. Determining the sex of the offspring rarely occurred if infants died or were missing from the group, and carcasses of infants were rarely found. Thus, calculating an accurate sex ratio of infants was not possible. However, surviving offspring were comprised of 42 males and 32 females. Determining the immediate cause of mortality was also challenging. Two of the six carcasses that were recovered were too decomposed to determine the cause of death. The remaining four carcasses were from the two observed triplet births and malnutrition was deemed the cause of death.

Fourteen females produced more than one litter. For these females, the mean survival rate to 6 months for first litters was 57%710.3 SEM but the mean across subsequent litters rose to 86%77.6. However, the effects of parity were not as clear. One primiparous female (Nadia) left her family group and assumed the position of the reproductively active female in a neighboring group and she gave birth to twins that survived to 6 months. However, two primiparous females (Milena and Tamara) were identified in the Santa Catalina sample but do not represent ‘‘typical’’ primiparous females as they were in groups containing two pregnant females. Milena successfully cared for her twins until one was observed missing from the group at week 8 and Tamara’s twins were ‘‘kidnapped’’ by her mother and subsequently died. Litter size appeared to influence survival with triplet litters showing a lower infant survival to 6 months (33%) than twins (80%) or singletons (77%), although the number of triplet litters (n52) is too small for statistical analysis.

This study confirms that infant survival to 6 months of age in the wild (78% twins and 88% singletons), gathered from two distinct field sites, and was greater than has been reported in captive colonies. Similar to captive colonies mortality was highest during the first week of life; however, given the low rate of carcass retrieval we cannot determine the cause of mortality and infant mortality associated after 20 days may be related to the development of infant independence. Given that the parity of the majority of our study females could not be determined, we did find that infant mortality was higher in first litters than subsequent litters born to wild cotton-top tamarin females. We were unable to find a significant relationship between infant mortality and group size or the number of adult males in a social group. However, there was a trend toward higher mortality with a shorter inter-birth interval. The number of females that produce multiple litters in 1 year is rare, but infants born out of the normal birthing season may be at risk as food may not be as plentiful for a nursing female.


Savage A. Snowdon CT, Giraldo LH. 1996b. Parental care patterns and vigilance in wild cotton-top tamarins (Saguinus oedipus). In Adaptive Radiations of Neotropical Primates. Eds. M Norconk, A Rosenberger, P Garber. New York: Plenum Press.

Parental care in this species is shared by all group members. Early infant caretaking experience, observed in captivity, has been found to influence future reproductive success in both males and females. If an animal has never carried an infant on its back while it was in its family it will abuse its own offspring. However, if the animal has experience caring for offspring prior to reproduction, it will successfully care for its offspring. Interestingly, non-natal animals are actively involved in infant care and are often observed assuming sentinel positions in their new groups. An animal never carries infants while involved in “sentry” duty. The sentry remains vigilant while the group forages or rests and is responsible for notifying the group of any potential threats to their safety.
Observations of 12 births in the wild showed that infants are carried exclusively during the first four weeks of development, with a gradual decrease during weeks 5-9, such that by week 10, the infants are solo for nearly 50% of the observation time. All individuals in the group carry the infants, though adults were more likely to than juveniles. There was no significant difference in carrying time between males and females. Primiparous females, however, carry their infants more during their first two weeks, than multiparous females. Infant survival to one year of age increases with group size (see Table 1 below). Contribution of the mother in infant care remains independent of group size, however, the larger the group, the less time the adult males carried infants.

Group Size (N)   Infant Survival Rate 
 3  40%
 4  66.7%
 5  100%
 6  87.5%

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