Saddle-back Tamarin (Saguinus fuscicollis)

The saddle-back tamarin has nonopposable thumbs and the nails of the digits are claw-like except for the first digit on each toe. Unlike the marmosets, this species, like all tamarins, have canines that are larger than the incisors, and their teeth morphology does not allow them to gnaw into the bark for gum (exudates) like the marmosets (Fleagle, 1988). The average adult body mass is about 310 grams (Garber and Teaford, 1986).

The saddle-back tamarin is found in the following countries: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. This species is found to inhabit primary and mature secondary rainforests, in trees from 3-20 meters in height.

The saddle-back tamarin forages for a number of food items including: insects, ripe fruits, gum (exudates), and nectar (Kinzey, 1997). When they feed on exudates (gum) they cling vertically with their claws embedded into the bark of the tree (Kinzey, 1997). They can only forage upon exudates (gum) that is already coming out of the tree by other means (Kinzey, 1997). The dominant female of the group usually controls the access to the area on the tree where the gum (exudates) are coming out of (Garber, 1993). The saddle-back tamarin also feeds upon large, cryptic invertebrates in all levels of the forest canopy, and uses a vertical clinging posture (Garber, 1993). The group of the saddle-back tamarin numbers from 3-8 individuals (Fleagle, 1988). This is an arboreal species.

This diurnal species walks or runs quadrupedally through the forest, and is capable of leaping between branches (Snowdon and Soini, 1988). This species can also cling to the side of the tree, embedding its claws into the bark (Kinzey, 1997).

The saddle-back tamarin has a multimale-multifemale social system (Kinzey, 1997). The groups consist of unrelated adults, and the main mating system is polyandry, with monogamy and polygyny being reported (Kinzey, 1997). The offspring are cared for by all adult group members, which includes the males (Kinzey, 1997). Group members also feed the infants, allowing the infants to take food from them (Terborgh and Goldizen, 1985). The group sleeps huddled together, which occurs in vines or branches (Kinzey, 1997). The saddle-back tamarin forms mixed-species associations with Saguinus imperator (Kinzey, 1997). The saddle-back tamarin also forms mixed-species associations with Saguinus mystax (Castro and Soini, 1978), Saguinus labiatus (Yoneda, 1981), and Saguinus nigricollis (Garber, 1993). These mixed-species associations may serve to assist in protecting from predators (Kinzey and Cunningham, 1994). Hardie and Buchanan-Smith (1997) found that mixed-species associations of saddle-back tamarins and Saguinus labiatus benefited from the mixed-species associations from having an overall greater amount of group vigilance (time watching predators), and a lower amount of individual vigilance compared to those groups with only single-species. Mixed-species associations may also help to have a higher population density for the saddle-back tamarin (Norconk, 1990). The saddle-back tamarin also has seen to forage in mixed-species associations with Callithrix argentata (Garber, 1993). In the saddle-back tamarins, the dominant breeding female suppresses the other females from having ovarian cycles, and this may also be accomplished by scent (Epple and Katz, 1984). Epple and Katz (1984) found that when they exposed the family scent to a female who had left the family group and paired that she would have a delay in her ovarian cycle.


contact call: This call by the saddle-back tamarin is used to keep track of the whereabouts of other members of the group (Moody and Menzel, 1976).

Pregnant females tend to scent mark frequently, and this might help in bringing the group together so helpers are there when the infants are born (Epple, 1975).

circumanal marking: This is when a saddle-back tamarin rubs the substrate with the circumanal areas in a sitting position; this is the most frequent marking behavior for this species (Epple et al., 1993).

suprapubic marking: This is when an individual presses the suprapubic pad against a substrate and deposits secretions by pulling itself along or by pushing itself with its feet (Epple et al., 1993).

sternal marking: This is when a saddle-back tamarin rubs the sternal gland against a substrate (Epple and Lorenz, 1967).



The saddle-back tamarin gives birth to twins like most callitrichids (Kinzey, 1997).

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Castro, R. and Soini, P. 1978. Field Studies on Saguinus mystax and Other Callitrichids in Amazonian Peru. In The Biology and Conservation of the Callitrichidae. ed D.G. Kleiman. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC.

Epple, G. 1975. The Behaviour of Marmoset Monkeys (Callitrichidae). In Primate Behaviour, Vol.4. ed L.A. Rosenblum, Academic Press.

Epple, G. and Katz, Y. 1984. Social Influences of Estrogen Excretion and Ovarian Cyclicity in Saddle-back Tamarins (Saguinus fuscicollis). American Journal of Primatology. Vol. 6, 215-227.

Epple, G. and Lorenz, R. 1967. Vorkommen, Morphologie und Funktion der Sternaldruse bei den Platyrrhini. Folia Primatologica. Vol.7, 98-126.

Epple, G., Belcher, A.M., Kuderling, I., Zeller, U., Scolnick, L., Greenfield, K.L., Smith III, A.B. 1993. Making Sense Out of Scents: Species Differences in Scent Glands, Scent-marking Behaviour, and Scent-mark Composition in the Callitrichdae. in Marmosets and Tamarins: Systematics, Behaviour, and Ecology. ed. Anthony B. Rylands, Oxford University Press.

Fleagle, J. G. 1988. Primate Adaptation and Evolution. Academic Press.

Garber, P.A. 1993. Feeding, Ecology, and Behaviour of the Genus Saguinus. in Marmosets and Tamarins: Systematics, Behaviour, and Ecology. ed Anthony B. Rylands. Oxford University Press.

Garber, P.A. and Teaford, M.F. 1986. Body Weights in Mixed Species Troops of Saguinus mystax mystax and Saguinus fuscicollis nigrifrons in Amazonian Peru. American Journal of Physical Anthropology Vol. 71, 331-336.

Hardie, S.M. and Buchanan-Smith, H.M. 1997. Vigilance in Single- and Mixed-species Groups of Tamarins (Saguinus labiatus and Saguinus fuscicollis). International Journal of Primatology. Vol. 18, 217-234.

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Moody, M.I. and Menzel, E.W. 1976. Vocalizations and Their Behavioral Contexts in the Tamarin, Saguinus fuscicollis. Folia Primatologica. Vol. 25, 73-94.

Norconk, M.A. 1990. Mechanisms Promoting Stability in Mixed Saguinus mystax and Saguinus fuscicollis Troops. American Journal of Primatology. Vol. 21, 159-170.

Snowdon, C.T. and Soini, P. 1988. The Tamarins, Genus Saguinus. in Ecology and Behavior of Neotropical Primates, Vol. 2 PP. 223-298. Eds, R.A. Mittermeier, A.B. Rylands, A.F. Coimbra-Filho, and G.A.B. da Fonseca. Washington, DC: World Wildlife Fund.

Terborgh, J. and Goldizen, A.W. 1985. On the mating System of the Cooperatively Breeding Saddle-backed Tamarin (Saguinus fuscicollis). Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology. Vol. 16, 293-299.

Yoneda, M. 1981. Ecological Studies of Saguinus fuscicollis and S. labiatus with Reference to Habitat Segregation and Height Preference. Kyoto University Overseas Research Reports. Vol.2, 43-50.

Last Updated: May 27, 2007.
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