Biogeographic Regions: neotropical (Native )
The south-western boundary of the cotton-top's range has not been clearly identified. Mast et al. (1983) suggested that it may extend to Villa Arteaga on the Río Sucio (Hershkovitz 1977), which included reports of Cotton-top Tamarins in Los Katios National Park. However, Barbosa et al. (1988) were unable to find any evidence of Cotton-top Tamarins in this area nor in Los Katios, where they observed only Saguinus geoffroyi.
Groups have been seen in the Islas del Rosario and Tayrona National Park in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta (Mast et al. 1993; A. Savage and L. H. Giraldo, pers. obs.). However, these populations were founded by captive animals that were released into the area (Mast et al. 1993) and these remnant populations are here considered as outside of the historic range of the species.
Costa Rica to Colombia
Cotton-top tamarins are distinguished from other members of the genus Saguinus by possessing a crest of long whitish hair from the forehead to the nape flowing over the shoulders. Their back is brown and the underparts of the arms and legs are whitish to yellow. The rump and inner sides of thighs are reddish-orange. The base of the tail is also reddish-orange, while the tip is blackish.
Characteristics that distinguish callitrichids from other new world monkeys are modified claws instead of nails on all digits and the presence of two rather than three molars on each side of the jaw.
Range mass: 260 to 380 g.
Other Physical Features: endothermic ; bilateral symmetry
Cotton-top tamarins inhabit tropical rainforests, open woodlands, and secondary growth. They are sensitive to any alteration in their habitat.
Terrestrial Biomes: forest ; rainforest ; scrub forest
Habitat and Ecology
Marmosets and tamarins are distinguished from the other monkeys of the New World by their small size, modified claws rather than nails on all digits except the big toe, the presence of two as opposed to three molar teeth in either side of each jaw, and by the occurrence of twin births. They eat fruits, flowers, nectar, plant exudates (gums, saps, latex) and animal prey (including frogs, snails, lizards, spiders and insects). Marmosets have morphological and behavioural adaptations for gouging trees trunks, branches and vines of certain species to stimulate the flow of gum, which they eat, and in some species form a notable component of the diet. The dentition of the tamarins (Saguinus and Leontopithecus) does not provide for gouging and they eat gums only when readily available.
Tamarins live in extended family groups of between four and 15 individuals, but usually 2-8. Saguinus oedipus lives in groups of 2-9. Savage et al. (1996a,b) observed reproductively active groups that ranged in size from 3-6. Generally, only one female per group breeds during a particular breeding season. Lives in groups of 2-9 individuals.
Tamarins are monomorphic - exhibiting only minor differences in body and canine size.
Adults H&B 20.8-25.9 cm, TL 33.0-41.0 cm (Hershkovitz 1977)
Weight 416.5 g (n = 10) (Savage 1990).
Cotton-top tamarins are primarily insectivorous; insects being 40% of their diet. They also eat a large amount of fruit which consists of 38.4% of their diet. Feeding on exudates, which is known as gum feeding, takes up 14.4% of their diet. Saguinus oedipus have an interesting characteristic which consists of food associated calls that are correlated with food preferences. Certain calls made by cotton-top tamarins were strictly associated with a feeding context and were not used in non-feeding contexts. However, it should be noted that there is a 3% error, when these specific calls are made in non-feeding contexts.
Animal Foods: insects
Plant Foods: fruit; sap or other plant fluids
Primary Diet: omnivore
Life History and Behavior
Perception Channels: tactile ; chemical
Status: captivity: 23.1 years.
Status: captivity: 23.0 years.
Lifespan, longevity, and ageing
Saguinus oedipus has a monogamous breeding system. This species has a form of cooperative breeding, which isn't present in many other Primates. It consists of adult 'helpers' staying in the family and gaining breeding experience instead of breeding themselves. This may result in the highest reproductive potential of all primates.
Mating System: monogamous ; cooperative breeder
Cotton-top tamarins are reproductively active seasonally with females being seen pregnant or suckling young only from January to June. They have an estrous cycle of 15 days and gestation lasts approximately 140 days. Sexual maturity is reached at 18 months in females and 24 months in males. Saguinus oedipus gives birth to non-identical twins twice each year.
Breeding interval: Saguinus oedipus breeds twice each year
Average number of offspring: 2.
Average gestation period: 140 days.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 18 months.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 24 months.
Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; viviparous
Average birth mass: 39.36 g.
Average gestation period: 178 days.
Average number of offspring: 1.9.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
Sex: male: 550 days.
Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
Sex: female: 548 days.
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Saguinus oedipus
Below is the sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.
See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen.
Other sequences that do not yet meet barcode criteria may also be available.
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Download FASTA File
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Saguinus oedipus
Public Records: 1
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
The main problems contributing to the cotton-top tamarin's status as endangered is the clearing of their forest habitat and population depletion from animal trade. Nature reserves have been set up to help maintain populations of Saguinus oedipus.
US Federal List: no special status
CITES: appendix ii
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: critically endangered
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
- 1994Endangered(Groombridge 1994)
- 1990Endangered(IUCN 1990)
- 1988Endangered(IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1988)
- 1986Endangered(IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1986)
- 1982Endangered(Thornback and Jenkins 1982)
Date Listed: 10/19/1976
Lead Region: Foreign (Region 10)
Where Listed: Entire
Population location: Entire
Listing status: E
For most current information and documents related to the conservation status and management of Saguinus oedipus , see its USFWS Species Profile
The three protected areas where they occur have lost a significant portion of their forests (Barbosa et al. 1988). Paramillo has lost approximately 42% of its original forested habitat and Montes de Maria and Los Colorados lost 70 and 71%, respectively. To date, almost 200,000 ha of the original forested areas within protected boundaries of the parks and reserves dedicated to Cotton-top Tamarin conservation efforts have been lost. This suggests, therefore, that there is less than 2,600 km² that will be protected in perpetuity for Cotton-top Tamarins by the Colombian Ministerio del Medio Ambiente. Although these areas are protected, they continue to suffer from the pressure of the growing local populations to extract resources or clear areas for agricultural activities.
Defler (1994, 2004; pp.196-201) discusses the conservation status and threats to this species (see also Defler and Rodríguez-Mahecha 2003; Defler et al. 2003).
There are three protected areas where Saguinus oedpipus occurs: Paramillo National Natural Park (460,000 ha), decreed in 1977; Los Colorados Fauna and Flora Sanctuary (1,000 ha) decreed in 1977; and Reserva Forestal Cerro de Coraza-Monte de Marja (7,460 ha) decreed in 1983. They were also introduced to Tayrona National Natural Park in 1974 (Defler 1994).
Proyecto Tití, a conservation programme for the Cotton-top Tamarin in Colombia, was established in 1987 to begin the first long-term field study on this species in collaboration with Colombian biologists, educators, NGO?s and government authorities (INDERENA, Ministerio del Medio Ambiente) (Savage 1988, 1993, 1995, 1996, 1997; Savage et al. 1996a,b, 1997, 2001a,b). Initial research focused on understanding the factors influencing reproductive strategies of Cotton-top Tamarins, but it quickly grew into a comprehensive conservation programme including educational efforts, capacity building, training Colombian students, development of economic alternatives, and the development of an agricultural training programme to decrease the pressure on the forest by local communities (Savage and Giraldo 1990; Savage et al. 1990, 1996, 1997).
In addition to the studies of Cotton-top Tamarins in the field, there has been a major and comprehensive assessment of the remaining habitat within the historic distribution of the Cotton-top Tamarin in Colombia, along with surveys to assess population numbers remaining. This information has provided important insights into the long-term viability of this population given the current rate of habitat destruction.
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
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