Primate of the week: Common marmosets

Callithrix jacchus



  • Suborder: Haplorrhini
  • Infraorder: Simiiformes
  • Family: Cebidae
  • Subfamily: Callitrichinae


Common marmosets are new world monkeys. They have brown, grey, and yellow color along with white eat tufts and a long banded tails (Rowe, 1996). They have pale skin no their faces and white on their forehead (Groves, 2001). Infants are brown and yellow and as they age they develop the white on the forehead and white ear tufts. Males and females are approximately the same size (Rowe, 1996).


They have claw like nails except for the big toe. This differs from most other primates that have flat nails (Garber et al., 1996). This likely developed in order to help cling vertically to trees, run across branches and leap/run between trees (Rowe, 1996; Kinzey, 1996). They also have chiseled shaped incisors and specialized cecum specific to their diet (Rowe, 1996; Sussman, 2000).


Common marmosets are found within dry, seasonal, semideciduous, savanna forest and coastal forest (Rylands and de Faria, 1993; Rylands et al., 1996).


Common marmosets are exudativore and insectivores. They specialize in exudates ie gum, sap, latex, and resin (Rylands and de Faria, 1993; Kinzey, 1997; Sussman, 2000).


Common marmosets have flexible mating behaviors and live in extended family units with a several dominant breeding individuals (Digby and Barreto, 1993; Sussman, 2000). Common marmosets live in groups of three to fifteen animals but on average have nine members (Ferrari and Ferrari, 1989). Generally groups include one breeding females and one breeding male and the offspring (Ferrari and Digby, 1989). Dispersal occurs when they are adults and most often males leave to find breeding females (Ferrari and Digby, 1966). Group stability depends on the breeding adult if the breeding adult dies then the group will break up (Lazaro Perea, 2001).


Common marmosets have cooperative breeding (Digby and Bareto, 1993). They exhibit several types of breeding strategy including polygyny, polyandry and monogamy (Digby, 1995; Nievergelt at al., 2000).


Common marmosets have twins very often and cooperative breeding is necessary for the continued care of the infants (Kinzey, 1997).



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