Animal Info - Cotton-top Tamarin

(Other Names: Bichichi; Cotton-headed, Crested, Geoffroy's or Rufous-naped Tamarin; Tamarin: à Perruque, d'Oedipe, or Pinché; Titi, Titi Blanco, Tití Cabeciblanco, Titi Cabeza Blanca, Titi Leoncito, Titi Pielroja)

Saguinus oedipus (S. o. oedipus)

Status: Endangered


Contents

1. Profile (Picture)
2. Tidbits
3. Status and Trends (IUCN Status, Countries Where Currently Found, Population Estimates, History of Distribution, Threats and Reasons for Decline)
4. Data on Biology and Ecology (Weight, Habitat, Age to Maturity, Gestation Period, Birth Season, Birth Rate, Early Development, Dispersal, Maximum Age, Diet, Behavior (Activity Patterns, Locomotion, Sleeping), Social Organization (Group Structure and Composition, Inter-group Relations, Relations between Individuals), Density and Range)
5. References


Profile

Pictures: Cotton-top Tamarin #1 (37 Kb JPEG) (Project Tamarin); Cotton-top Tamarin #2 (111 Kb GIF) (AZA)  

The cotton-top tamarin is a small monkey about the size of a squirrel.  It weighs less than 0.5 kg (1 lb).  The species’ most distinguishing characteristics are the crest and mane on its head, both white. Its face is black, and its temples and the sides of its head are covered with short silvery hairs. Its back is primarily black or brown, while the underparts of the body, arms, and legs are predominantly white. The cotton-top tamarin is found in humid tropical forest, dry deciduous forest, and secondary growth forest. This tamarin is also highly adaptable to secondary or remnant forest fringes or patches and can live in relatively disturbed habitats. Fruits and insects comprise the majority of the cotton-top tamarin's diet. It is arboreal and diurnal, arising an hour after dawn and retiring well before dark.  Foraging generally takes place in mid-lower strata of the forest. Sleeping sites are in the upper canopy, where a cotton-top tamarin sleeps on a wide branch or forking branches or amid tufts of leafy vegetation. 

Cotton-top tamarin groups do not represent extended families. A group may consist of a dominant mated pair, their young of the year, and a number of transient subordinates. Groups most commonly consist of  3 - 9 animals. The home ranges of neighboring groups overlap substantially, but contact between groups appears to be agonistic. A group maintains a fixed territory within its home range.  Most groups appear to be monogamous, with only one reproductively active male and female. Only one female gives birth, while other females in the group are reproductively suppressed. Everyone takes care of infants - parents, other females, juveniles and young all take part. The sharing of food seems common, especially fathers sharing with their young ones and older siblings with younger siblings.

The cotton-top tamarin is endemic to Colombia. It has a limited distribution, occurring in northwestern Colombia, generally between the Atrato River and the Magdalena River. Current population numbers are unknown, but more than 3/4 of its original habitat has been deforested, much of it for cattle pasture. Remnant populations are small and are restricted to a few isolated forest fragments. Currently, deforestation for agriculture, fuel, and housing is the greatest threat to the survival of the cotton-top tamarin. Collection for the local pet trade in Colombia and continuing illegal exportation are also of concern. 


Tidbits

*** In 1992, a survey of students in a rural community of Colombia showed that 90% of the students were not aware that the cotton-top tamarin is found only in Colombia and is one of the most endangered primates in their country. (The same survey showed that 70% of the students had never visited the forest, even though it was less than 5 km (3 mi) away, and that most of the students considered the forest to be a dangerous place, filled with poisonous snakes and other undesirable creatures.) (Savage 1992)

*** Cotton-top tamarins can benefit from some selective timber harvesting which opens up forest habitat.

*** The cotton-top tamarin has been used in medical research, and currently there are more of these monkeys in captivity than in the wild (Burnie & Wilson 2001).

*** The cotton-top tamarin (Saguinus oedipus) actually seems to have an Oedipus complex (in the Greek sense), although the mother apparently does not allow her son to consummate the process (Ginther & Snowdon 2004).


Status and Trends

IUCN Status:

Countries Where the Cotton-top Tamarin Is Currently Found:

2004: Occurs in Colombia (IUCN 2004).

Population Estimates:

[Note: Figures given are for wild populations only.]

History of Distribution:

The cotton-top tamarin is endemic to Colombia. It has a limited distribution, occurring in northwestern Colombia, generally between the Atrato River and the Magdalena River, in the Departments of Atlantico, Sucre, Cordoba, western Bolivar, northwestern Antiquoia, and northeastern Choco. More specifically, its range extends from the eastern bank of the Atrato River to the western bank of the Cauca and lower Magdalene Rivers, bounded by the Colombian Caribbean coast to the north and the beginning of the Cauca River and crossing the Serranía de San Jerónimo to the south. It is not found on Mompos Island, where it is replaced by the white-footed tamarin. Current population numbers are unknown, but more than 3/4 of its original habitat has been deforested, much of it for cattle pasture. Remnant populations are small and are restricted to a few isolated forest fragments. (Emmons & Feer 1997, AZA 1998e, Defler 2004, Project Tamarin) 

Distribution Map #1 (17 Kb) (InfoNatura)
Distribution Map #2
(68 Kb JPEG) (Project Tamarin)
Distribution Map #3 (255 Kb JPEG) (Inst. Ciên. Biol.)

Threats and Reasons for Decline:

From 1960 - 1975, as many as 30,000 - 40,000 cotton-top tamarins were exported to the USA, in addition to those exported to other countries. This export trade was primarily for biomedical research, mainly because the cotton-top tamarin’s tendency to develop colon cancer made it an ideal subject for in-depth studies. All exportation from Colombia has been outlawed since 1974, but some illegal exportation continues. Currently, deforestation for agriculture, fuel, and housing is the greatest threat to the survival of the cotton-top tamarin. Collection for the local pet trade in Colombia and continuing illegal exportation are also of concern. (Defler 2004, Project Tamarin) 


Data on Biology and Ecology

Weight:

The cotton-top tamarin weighs 0.40 - 0.45 kg (0.9 - 1.0 lb).  The length of its head and body is 20 - 25 cm (8 - 10").  Males and females are about the same size. (Burnie & Wilson 2001) 

Habitat:

The cotton-top tamarin is found in humid tropical forest, dry deciduous forest, and secondary growth forest. It uses multiple layers of the tropical forest, moving vertically between the understory and canopy, but it prefers to utilize the lower levels of the forest. It is most commonly found in trees but can also be seen on the ground, foraging among leaf litter. This tamarin is also highly adaptable to secondary or remnant forest fringes or patches and can live in relatively disturbed habitats. (Prim. Info Net)

The cotton-top tamarin occurs in the Choco-Darien Moist Forests Global 200 Ecoregion. (Olson & Dinerstein 1998, Olson & Dinerstein 1999)

Age to Maturity:

18 months (female); 24 months (male).

Gestation Period:

125 - 140 days (Defler 2004).

Birth Season:

A birth season has been reported in March - May at the beginning of the rainy season, with another birth season six months later in September - November, although births have been found during other times of the year (Defler 2004)

Birth Rate:

A female cotton-top tamarin gives birth once a year. Twenty percent of the births produce one infant, while eighty percent of the time twins are born. (AZA 1998e, Burnie & Wilson 2001) 

Early Development:

Observations on 4 sets of twins born in their natural habitat showed that after birth both parents and other older females took care of the babies, with the juveniles and young taking some part later after the first 3 weeks as the new infants matured. By the fourth or fifth week the infant was traveling beside the care-giver, and by week nine the infant traveled independently 50% of the time. At fourteen weeks the infant was independent and did not need to be carried. At week seven the first social play was observed, while at week eight infants began begging for food from other group members. Weaning occurs about eight - ten weeks after birth. (Defler 2004)  

Dispersal:

Subadult males have been observed to migrate between groups (Defler 2004).

Maximum Age:

One cotton-top tamarin lived for nearly 25 years in captivity (Nowak 1999).

Diet:

The cotton-top tamarin primarily feeds on fruits and insects. It also consumes flowers, leaves, nectar and gums of trees and occasionally small vertebrates such as frogs and lizards. A cotton-top tamarin obtains water from the fruit it eats, and it also licks leaves wet with rain or morning dew to obtain moisture. Because of the seasonal scarcity of food, the body weight of the cotton-top tamarin varies as much as 30% between rainy and dry seasons. (AZA 1998e, Defler 2004) 

Behavior:

Activity Patterns - The cotton-top tamarin is arboreal and diurnal, arising an hour after dawn and retiring well before dark. It travels 1 - 2 km/day (0.6 - 1.2 mi/day), foraging for insects, feeding on fruit, and seeking favorite sleeping spots. One study showed that the percentages of time spent on different activities by two groups of cotton-top tamarins were quite different from each other: 44%/31% foraging, 37%/29% resting, and 19%/40% moving. Foraging generally takes place in mid-lower strata of the forest (at heights of 4.5 - 13.5 m (14.8 - 44') above ground in one study). The day range of one group was estimated at 1.5 - 1.9 km (0.93 - 1.2 mi). 

Locomotion - The cotton-top tamarin is a quadrupedal walker, runner and galloper. It jumps from one terminal branch to another and often clings from a vertical position. 

Sleeping - Sleeping sites are in the upper canopy (13.5 - 20 m (44 - 66') above ground in one study), where a cotton-top tamarin sleeps on a wide branch or forking branches, often with little vegetative cover overhead, or amid tufts of leafy vegetation. Sometimes it uses a cover of lianas and branches and occasionally it uses a dense mass of vines. One group of cotton-top tamarins was often observed to enter the tree chosen for sleeping at 1630 (4:30 pm) and to be sleeping by 1830 (6:30 pm). 

(Emmons & Feer 1997, Defler 2004)

Social Organization:

Group Structure and Composition: Cotton-top tamarin groups do not represent extended families. A group may consist of a dominant mated pair, their young of the year, and a number of transient subordinates. The subordinates leave and re-enter the main group and sometimes form small groups of their own within the home range of the main group. Cotton-top tamarin groups consist of 2 - 12 animals, with groups of 3 - 9 animals being most common. (AZA 1998e, Nowak 1999)

Inter-group Relations: Neighboring home ranges overlap substantially, but contact between groups appears to be agonistic. A group maintains a fixed territory within its home range, which the group defends physically; e.g. with bluff charges at territory boundaries, and with vocal displays. One adult member of the group acts as a sentry while other group members are occupied with foraging or other activities. (Nowak 1999, Defler 2004) 

Relations between Individuals: Most groups appear to be monogamous, with only one reproductively active male and female, although exceptions to this trend have been found. Only one female gives birth, while other females in the group are reproductively suppressed. Everyone takes care of infants. Initially, after birth, parents as well as other females take care of the baby, with the juveniles and young taking part later, after the first 3 weeks, as the new infant matures. In fact, this early infant caretaking experience appears to be critical for the future reproductive success for both males and females, because parental care in cotton-top tamarins is not instinctive - it is learned. If an animal is hand-reared or is removed from its family prior to carrying infants on its back, it will not successfully rear its own young. The sharing of food seems common, especially fathers sharing with their young ones and older siblings with younger siblings. (AZA 1998e, Defler 2004) 

Density and Range:

Density:

  • 30 - 180 individuals/sq km (78 - 470 individuals/sq mi) (Nowak 1999). 

Home range:

  • Home ranges of 12.4 hectares (31 acres) and 10.5 hectares (26 acres) have been observed. Two territories measuring 7.8 hectares (20 acres) and one territory measuring 10 hectares (25 acres) have been reported. They overlapped with neighboring territories by approximately 20 - 27%. (Defler 2004) 

References

AZA, AZA 1998e, Burnie & Wilson 2001, Burton & Pearson 1987, Defler 2004, Emmons & Feer 1997, InfoNatura, Inst. Ciên. Biol., Ginther & Snowdon 2004, IUCN 1994, IUCN 1996, IUCN 2000, IUCN 2003a, IUCN 2004, Nowak 1999, Nowak & Paradiso 1983, Olson & Dinerstein 1998, Olson & Dinerstein 1999, Prim. Info Net, Project Tamarin, Savage 1992, Sunquist 1995


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