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Tamarins Marmosets and Goeldi's Monkey: Callitrichidae

Cotton-top Tamarin (saguinus Oedipus):species Accounts

Physical characteristics: The cotton-top tamarin gets its name from the long, white hair that starts as a wedge at its forehead and flows all way to the nape of the neck. Black or brown fur covers the back, and white fur covers the undersides. The black face is framed in grayish fur. The arms and legs are grayish white. The long, brownish black tail helps in keeping balance when jumping and climbing. It has claws for vertical climbing, except for the big toe, which has a flat nail. It weighs about 12.4 to 15.9 ounces (350 to 450 grams) and measures 7.9 to 11 inches (20 to 28 centimeters), plus an additional 12.2 to 16.1 inches (31 to 41 centimeters) for the tail.

Cotton-top tamarins prefer the tropical deciduous forests that are typically found on the edges of rainforests. They live in Colombia. (Gail M. Shumway/Bruce Coleman Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

Geographic range: Cotton-top tamarins are found in Colombia.

Habitat: Cotton-top tamarins are found in rainforests, but prefer the tropical deciduous forests that are typically found on the edges of rainforests. They also inhabit open woodlands and dry forests.

Diet: Cotton-top tamarins eat mainly ripe fruits, insects, and spiders. They also feed on flowers, buds, young leaves, nectar, gum, tree frogs, snails, and lizards.

Behavior and reproduction: Cotton-top tamarins live in groups of three to ten individuals, consisting of a dominant pair, their offspring, and several subordinate males and females. During the day, they travel through the forest as a group foraging for food. They take long breaks for grooming sessions to remove parasites and dirt from each other's fur. Cotton-top tamarins are vocal, making long calls to contact group members or to greet other tamarin species. They scent mark territories and use body language to communicate, such as raising their head fur or nape fur when agitated.

Only the dominant pair breeds, usually having twins. Infants travel with their parents by clinging to their fur. Both parents care for the young, although fathers usually carry the young. The parents are assisted by older siblings and other group members, who also share their food with the young. Young females leave home at about eighteen months of age, while young males stay longer until they are about two years old.

Cotton-top tamarins and people: Cotton-top tamarins are popular as pets. They are used in medical research, especially in the study of colon cancer.

Conservation status: The IUCN lists the cotton-top tamarin as Endangered because of habitat loss and degradation due to deforestation for agriculture and ranching. ∎

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceMammalsTamarins Marmosets and Goeldi's Monkey: Callitrichidae - Physical Characteristics, Behavior And Reproduction, Callitrichids And People, Conservation Status, Cotton-top Tamarin (saguinus Oedipus):species Accounts - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET