Common marmoset

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View a family of common marmosets live via The Callicam!


Suborder: Haplorrhini
Infraorder: Simiiformes
Family: Cebidae
Subfamily: Callitrichinae
Genus: Callithrix
Subgenus: Callithrix
Species: C. jacchus

Other names: true marmoset or white-tufted-ear marmoset; ouistit (French); penseelaapje (Dutch); sagui-comum or sagui-do-nordeste (Portuguese); marmosett, silkesmarmosett, vit silkesapa, or vitörad silkesapa (Swedish)

Conservation status: please search the IUCN Red List.

Life span: 12 years (wild)
Total population: Unknown
Regions: Brazil
Gestation: 5 months (148 days)
Height: 188 mm (M), 185 mm (F)
Weight: 256 g (M), 236 g (F)


Common marmosets are small-bodied New World monkeys that are a mottled brown, grey, and yellow color with white ear tufts and long, banded tails (Rowe 1996). They have pale skin on their faces, which darkens with exposure to sun, and a blaze of white on their foreheads (Groves 2001). Infants are born with a brown and yellow coat and develop the white ear tufts and forehead blaze as they age. Males and females are about the same size, with males measuring, on average, 188 mm (7.40 in) and females having an average height of 185 mm (7.28 in). Males have slightly higher average weights than females at 256 g (9.03 oz) and 236 g (8.32 oz), respectively (Rowe 1996).

Common marmoset
Callithrix jacchus

Members of the genus Callithrix, common marmosets have a few adaptations unique to this group and necessary for their diet and arboreal lifestyle. On all but the hallux (big toe), they have claw-like nails called tegulae instead of the characteristic flat nails (ungulae) of other primates, including humans (Garber et al. 1996). The presence of claw-like nails instead of true nails helps common marmosets in their squirrel-like locomotion patterns. They cling vertically to trees, run quadrupedally across branches, and move between trees by leaping (Rowe 1996; Kinzey 1997). Other rare traits exhibited by callitrichines are their enlarged, chisel-shaped incisors and specialized cecum (part of the large intestine) which are adaptations for a very specialized diet (Rowe 1996; Sussman 2000). Finally, members of this group have a tendency to give birth to non-identical twins, which is unusual for primates (Sussman 2000).

The average lifespan of a wild common marmoset is 12 years (Rowe 1996).


Callithrix jacchus

Common marmosets are endemic to Brazil. They range in the northeastern and central forests from the Atlantic coast and inland as far west as the Rio Grande and are found in the states of Alagoas, Pernambuco, Paríba, Rio Grande do Norte, Ceará, and Piauí. Common marmosets have been introduced to areas outside of their natural geographic range in Brazil and can be found living within the cities of Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires, Argentina (Rylands et al. 1993).

Captive common marmosets have been studied extensively in the lab since the early 1960s (Rylands 1997). Because of their small body size and the habitat in which they are found, marmosets can be difficult to study in the field. Despite these challenges, extensive studies on the behavior and ecology of wild common marmosets have been carried out at sites in Brazil: João Pessoa, Paraíba, Nísia Floresta, near Natal, and Tapcurá, Pernambuco (Rylands & de Faria 1993; Digby 1995; Albuquerque et al. 2001).


Common marmosets inhabit a variety of forest types including the extreme northern Atlantic coastal forest, dry, seasonal, semideciduous inland forests, riverine forests in dry thorn scrub habitat or caatinga, and the savanna forest or cerrado in central Brazil (Rylands & de Faria 1993; Rylands et al. 1996). These forests of the dry central region of South America are markedly different from the humid rainforests of Amazonia and are relatively more hostile environments with shorter canopies (only 65 to 98 ft). They are also less species-dense and species-rich and have more seasonal fluctuations in temperature and rainfall than the rainforest of Brazil (Rylands et al. 1996). Members of the genus Callithrix, including common marmosets, excel in dry secondary and disturbed forests or edge habitats but they also show great elasticity in the type of habitats in which they can live (Kinzey 1997; Sussman 2000).

In the caatinga region, the annual average temperature is 24 to 26° C (75 to 79° F) and the yearly average rainfall is between 300 mm (11.8 in) and 1000 mm (3.28 ft). The dry season is intense and lasts for 7 to 10 months. Irregular rainfall during the rainy season supports semidesert vegetation including spiny shrubs, low trees, and thorn forests (Eiten 1975). The cerrado region has a slightly less harsh dry season and cooler annual temperatures. Cerrado habitat is characterized by yearly average temperatures between 20 and 26° C (68 to 75° F) and rainfall between 750 and 2000 mm (2.46 and 6.56 ft). The dry season only lasts about five months (Eiten 1975). The Brazilian Atlantic forest region has annual average temperatures between 19 and 25° C (66 and 77° F) and rainfall between 1000 and 2000 mm (3.28 and 6.56 ft) per year (Eiten 1975).


The specialized morphological adaptations of common marmosets can be best understood by reviewing their specialized diet and arboreal lifestyle. Common marmosets are exudativoreinsectivores and their claw-like nails, incisor morphology, and gut specialization reflect this interesting diet. Though all callitrichines feed on plant exudates, common marmosets utilize gum, sap, latex, and resin much more than other species (Rylands & de Faria 1993; Kinzey 1997; Sussman 2000). With lower incisors that are the same length as their canines, common marmosets systematically gnaw the bark of plants to stimulate the flow of edible exudates while vertically clinging with their claw-like nails to the trunks of trees (Stevenson & Rylands 1988; Ferrari & Lopes Ferrari 1989). Once a wound to a tree has been inflicted, the monkey licks or scoops out the exudates with its teeth (Stevenson & Rylands 1988). Gum, sap, latex, and resin are good, non-seasonal food sources in the most extremely seasonal parts of common marmosets’ range and make up a significant part of their total diet; anywhere from 20 to 70% of the time spent foraging is devoted to exudativory (Ferrari & Lopes Ferrari 1989; Power 1996; Rowe 1996). Exudate feeding is particularly frequent from January to April, when fruits are scarce (Scanlon et al. 1989; Rylands & de Faria 1993). Marmosets often revisit previously gouged holes and use holes made by other animals and natural injuries to trees to harvest gum and resin. The potential for competition between common marmosets and other frugivorous and exudativorous animals exists and some of the prime potential competitors include birds (parrots and toucans) and woolly opposums (Stevenson & Rylands 1988). Because plant exudate is such an abundant resource, inter- and intraspecies competition may not be important. In fact, the exudativorous behavior exhibited by common marmosets makes it possible for them to live at extremely high population densities, as high as eight animals per hectare (Ferari & Lopes Ferrari 1989).

Common marmoset
Callithrix jacchus

The other important food source for common marmosets is insect prey and they spend between 24 and 30% of their time foraging for insects (Digby & Barreto 1998). Because of their small body size, marmosets are able to utilize insects to fulfill their protein and fat requirements, unlike larger-bodied primates (Sussman 2000). In the understory and middle layers of the forest, small-bodied marmosets can silently stalk and then pounce on large mobile insects (especially orthopterans) (Rylands & de Faria 1993). Common marmosets also include in their diet fruits, seeds, flowers, fungi, nectar, snails, lizards, tree frogs, bird eggs, nestlings, and infant mammals (Stevenson & Rylands 1988; Digby & Barreto 1998).

Home range size varies from .005 to .065 km² (.002 to .03 mi²) and is selected based on densities of gum trees. Common marmosets are found in home ranges with densities of gum trees no less than 50 trees per hectare (124/acre) (Scanlon et al. 1989). Average day range is only between .5 and 1.0 km (.30 and .62 mi) and common marmosets preferentially use areas of their home ranges centered around clusters of gum trees (Stevenson & Rylands 1988). Though they do not travel great distances during the day, common marmosets are active for 11 to 12 hours per day, usually from 30 minutes after sunrise to about 30 minutes before sunset (Stevenson & Rylands 1988; Kinzey 1997). After leaving their sleep site, common marmosets feed intensively for about an hour and then spend the rest of the day alternating between feeding, resting, and socializing (Stevenson & Rylands 1988). They spend about 35% of their time moving and foraging, 10% on social activities, 12% feeding, and 53% of their time is spent stationary (Kinzey 1997). When they rest, common marmosets adopt a sprawling position and can spend long periods of time (over 30 minutes) without moving (Stevenson & Rylands 1988). At the end of the day, common marmosets enter sleeping trees about one hour before sunset; these areas are usually in dense, vine-covered vegetation (Sussman 2000). The group sleeps together in a sleeping site presumably for safety from predators.

Because of their small body size, common marmosets are vulnerable to predation by mammals and birds. Some common predators include mustelids, felids, arboreal snakes, owls, and raptors (Stafford & Ferreira 1995; Kinzey 1997; Sussman 2000). Common marmosets are very vigilant and have specialized alarm calls which elicit certain avoidance responses from other members of the group as well as mobbing behaviors toward potential predators (Kinzey 1997; Sussman 2000).

Content last modified: May 18, 2005

Written by Kristina Cawthon Lang. Reviewed by Toni Ziegler.

Cite this page as:
Cawthon Lang KA. 2005 May 18. Primate Factsheets: Common marmoset (Callithrix jacchus) Taxonomy, Morphology, & Ecology . <>. Accessed 2020 July 30.

Additional reference: Neurobiology: What marmosets can teach us. Protocols and Methods. Springer Nature. Nov. 14, 2016.

View a family of common marmosets live via The Callicam!


Though they have been studied in captive settings since the 1960s, the social structure of wild common marmosets is less well known than other reproductive and behavioral characteristics (Digby 1995; Ferrari & Digby 1996). Long thought to be monogamous, evidence from recent field studies shows that they have a social structure that revolves around a stable, extended family unit with a few dominant breeding individuals and flexible mating behavior (Digby & Barreto 1993; Digby 1995; Ferrari & Digby 1996; Sussman 2000). Groups of common marmosets range in size from three to 15 animals, but usually have about nine members (Stevenson & Rylands 1988; Ferrari & Lopes Ferrari 1989). Within the group, three generations are often encompassed including one or two breeding females with one breeding male and related adults (possibly parents or siblings) and the breeding pairs’ offspring (Ferrari & Digby 1996). Using genetic evidence to tease apart the relationships within a group of common marmosets, it has been demonstrated that females within a group are closely related (as close as mother/daughter or sisters) while breeding males are distantly related, and probably immigrated from another group. When males are closely related to breeding females, they do not breed with them (Nievergelt et al. 2000). Unlike many other primate species, emigration does not occur during adolescence in common marmosets. Instead, they remain in their group until they are adults and then the males leave the group to find breeding females. Emigration by adults is balanced by recruitment through births, keeping the group size relatively stable over time, though very little is known about when and why adult common marmosets leave their groups (Ferrari & Digby 1996). Group stability is compromised in the wild because the death of a breeding adult will cause a group to break up and separate into new groups (Lazaro-Perea 2001).

Common marmoset
Callithrix jacchus

Social status within the group is linked to breeding status, and while the breeding pair is usually codominant, if there is more than one breeding female, one of the breeding females is dominant over the other. For nonbreeding individuals, the dominance hierarchy is age-graded and sex is not a factor (Digby 1995). Dominant individuals displace others at feeding sites and exhibit a variety of postures, vocalizations, and behaviors that include open-mouth threats, nips, cuffs, lunges, grabs, ear-tuft flicks, genital presenting, chasing, and biting (Abbott 1984; Digby 1995). They are the center of social life in the group and subordinate animals favor being in proximity with dominant individuals and groom them preferentially (Digby 1995).

One of the defining social behaviors of common marmosets is their system of cooperative breeding and infant care (Digby & Barreto 1993; Digby 1995; Sussman 2000). The breeding adults in the group depend on the cooperation of their adult siblings and offspring to care for their new infants to ensure their survival. This requires behavioral and physiological reproductive suppression of adult and developing females and behavioral reproductive suppression of adult and developing males in the group by the breeding pair, a phenomenon that has been well studied among captive common marmosets (Saltzman et al. 1997; Baker et al. 1999). In response to a dominant, unrelated, female, submissive common marmosets become anovulatory while her daughters may continue to cycle (Ziegler &de Sousa 2002). Rather than dispersing, finding a breeding partner, and forming a new group, subordinate marmosets that are sexually mature and could otherwise mate stay within the family unit. This strategy may be beneficial under certain ecological conditions. For example, where marmosets live in extremely high population densities, dispersal may not be possible because of lack of available territory and hostile encounters with other marmoset groups in the area or high chance of predation if ranging solitarily (Dietz 2004). Staying within the group, at least for a while, to help raise their nieces and nephews or siblings may be the best choice to maximize fitness. Because these helpers are likely related to the dominant female, it is within their interest to ensure the survival of her offspring because they are also related to them and the survival of the infants increases the related caregiver’s inclusive fitness (Saltzman et al. 1997).


Sexual behavior and reproductive parameters are often skewed in captivity compared to natural conditions and as such, data from laboratory settings often must be substantiated by observations and tests from wild animals. The common marmoset is no exception, though recently there have been advances in hormonal monitoring techniques resulting in data from wild common marmosets (Albuquerque et al. 2001).

Common marmoset infant
Callithrix jacchus

The mating patterns of wild common marmosets are exceptionally complex and vary over time. While monogamy was long thought to be rule among common marmosets because of captive studies, there have been observations of polygyny, polyandry, and monogamy in the wild (Digby 1995; Nievergelt et al. 2000). Field data support that most mating is monogamous and when two females are pregnant within a group, it is because the subordinate female, the daughter of the dominant female, mated with a male from a neighboring group. The non-dominant female is not fully reproductively suppressed, but her pregnancy does not result in viable offspring (Digby 1999; Nievergelt et al. 2000; Arruda et al. 2005). Even though the subordinate females lose their infants, this pattern of mating with extra-group males may be a strategy to identify potential future mates. This is supported because subordinate females that mated successfully but did not produce viable offspring emigrated from their natal groups shortly after and joined another group, assuming a breeding position (Arruda et al. 2005).

Menarche occurs between nine and 14 months of age but common marmosets do not menstruate nor are there any external signs of ovulation. The ovarian cycle lasts between 24 and 30 days, but averages 28 days (Hearn 1982; Kendrick & Dixson 1983). In captivity, in the presence of a dominant female, unrelated young female marmosets generally will not ovulate and though they are sexually mature, they do not cycle and are unable to breed, but the dominant female’s daughters do exhibit ovarian cyclicity even if they do not mate (Abbott 1984; Ziegler &Sousa 2002). Under natural conditions, the presence of two breeding females has been observed, but the females are always closely related, either mother and daughter or sisters (Digby & Barreto 1993; Nievergelt et al. 2000; Arruda et al. 2005). For females, the mechanism by which this occurs is both behavioral and physiological but variations in reproductive suppression are not well understood. That is, it is unclear why in most but not all circumstances only one female breeds while in other instances there are two breeding females (Saltzman et al. 1997). One factor that contributes to the suppression of ovulation in subordinate female common marmosets is the presence of a related male. In laboratory studies, young adult females do not ovulate or exhibit sexual behavior in the presence of their fathers, probably a defense against inbreeding, but if the biological father is replaced by another adult male, within a few weeks ovulation occurs coupled with sexual solicitations and an increase in aggressive behavior towards their mothers (Abbott 1984; Saltzman et al. 1997). One explanation for this is daughters are trying to displace their mothers as the dominant breeding female in their group and have more opportunities to mate and increase their overall fitness.

Once the social conditions are suitable for a female to begin breeding, common marmosets reproduce consistently over the remainder of their adult lives. Females solicit mating by tongue-flicking displays directed at males. Common marmosets mate throughout their ovarian cycle but the majority of mating occurs in a three- to four-day window on either side of ovulation (Kendrick & Dixson 1983). Gestation lasts about five months (143 to 153 days) and soon after parturition (within 10 days), female marmosets begin to cycle again and shortly thereafter become pregnant (Lunn & McNeilly 1982; Sussman 2000). The interbirth interval exhibited by common marmosets is five months and they give birth twice each year (Stevenson & Rylands 1988). Common marmosets exhibit a high degree of birth seasonality in the wild and have two birth peaks during the year; during September, October, and November as well as April, May, and June (Stevenson & Rylands 1988). One of the major factors thought to influence this strict seasonality is rainfall, which directly affects food availability (Di Bitetti & Janson 2000). Common marmosets give birth at the end of the dry season and at the end of the rainy season to maximize food availability. Because nursing is so energetically costly, females need to minimize the nutritional stress they experience by rearing their infants during periods of relative food abundance (Di Betetti & Janson 2000). Additionally, the pattern of habitual twinning among common marmosets means nursing and rearing infants is even more energetically taxing. Common marmosets do not always give birth to twins; they also have single births and triplets. The reproductive patterns of common marmosets would not be possible if there were not special adaptations to infant rearing and parental care.


Common marmoset
Callithrix jacchus

Group support for developing infants is necessary among common marmosets. Twins are often 20 to 27% of the mother’s total body weight; this is the equivalent of a 135-pound woman giving birth to two 16-pound babies. A female would not be able to care for infants alone because of the high demands of pregnancy and lactation as well as the mechanical difficulties of carrying two heavy infants, therefore all age-sex classes contribute to infant survival and development among common marmosets (Stevenson & Rylands 1988; Rothe et al. 1993; Tardif et al. 1993; Kinzey 1997). As discussed previously, compliance with cooperative rearing is probably linked to kin selection and fitness. The non-reproductive helpers in the group are probably related to the infants because they are related to the breeding female. It is within their interest to ensure the survival of her offspring because this increases the helper’s inclusive fitness (Rothe et al. 1993; Saltzman et al. 1997). Studies on captive marmosets indicate that survival rate increases as number of non-reproductive helpers increases, up to a point. The highest survival rate of infants (95.7%) is found in groups of 10 common marmosets (the breeding pair and eight helpers) (Rothe et al. 1993). Interestingly, the average group size in the wild is about nine members.

From birth, common marmosets have a very strong cling reflex and do not voluntarily leave their carrier’s back for the first two weeks of life. They are very active starting in the second week, crawling on their carrier’s back and investigating their surroundings (Stevenson & Rylands 1988). Immediately after birth, the breeding male and presumptive father of the infants begins to carry the twins and caregiving by offered by the father, mother, or other members of the group (Yamamoto 1993). Over the following weeks, time off the backs of carriers gradually increases and the infants develop locomotory behaviors and coordination and begin to exhibit play behavior (Stevenson & Rylands 1988). By about three months of age, the infants are almost completely weaned and are capable of self-feeding, though they do not gnaw their own holes to feed on gum but rather lick the holes created by older individuals (Stevenson & Rylands 1988). The infancy stage lasts until about five months of age and is followed by the juvenile period, which lasts between five and 10 months (Stevenson & Rylands 1988; Yamamoto 1993). By five months, common marmoset juveniles are 75% of their adult weight. Interaction with other group members besides parents is emphasized and play becomes rougher as future status is worked out. During the juvenile period, another set of infants is usually born and carrying and play with infants also characterizes this period of development (Yamamato 1993). Between nine and 14 months, the sub-adult stage begins, characterized by the full repertoire of adult behaviors as well as puberty. By 15 months, common marmosets have reached their adult weight and are capable of reproduction but do not reproduce until social conditions are adequate (Yamamato 1993).


Comman marmoset infant twins
Callithrix jacchus

Like all primates, vocal and visual communication is important to common marmosets. Facial expressions and vocalizations convey information about social status, emotional state, and intent to other individuals (Stevenson & Rylands 1988). Because of their small size and the natural habitats they are found in, visual signals are important in close-range communication while vocal communication is more important over longer distances (Jones 1997). Some expressive facial and postural positions include the “partial open mouth stare,” “frown,” and “slit-stare” which are used to signify alarm, aggression, and submission. When common marmosets flatten their ear-tufts close to their heads in “tuft-flatten” position, this signifies submission, fear, and sometimes curiosity of new objects (Stevenson & Rylands 1988).

Common marmosets use vocal signals in a variety of situations including in response to unexpected movements and in threatening situations (Jones 1997). Alarm calls in response to sudden movement include “staccatos,” which are a series of short ascending calls, and “tsiks,” that are brief descending calls given either alone or in a series. Alarm calls are brief, high-pitched vocalizations that elicit fleeing behavior from other group members and are given in response to threatening situations (Lazaro-Perea 2001). There are some calls that are generally used and which lack obvious contextual connection including “phee” and “trill” calls (Jones 1997). “Phee” calls have high sound intensity and sound like very loud, high pitched whistles. They are usually given in a series of one to five notes that last about two seconds each. They are important for long-range vocal contact and play a role in mate attraction, maintenance of group cohesion, territorial defense, and location of lost group members (Jones 1997). “Trill” calls are also generic vocalizations, but sound much different from “phees.” They have lower pitch and have cyclic frequency fluctuations that give them a distinctive vibrato sound. These calls are given by all animals of any age, sex, and status and their main purpose probably is to monitor group members by identifying and locating their position in low visibility areas (Jones 1997).

Unlike the apes and Old World monkeys, smell is very important to New World monkeys. They have a specialized organ in their nasal cavity called the vomeronasal organ that allows them to process chemical signals in a focused manner and discern information about other animals (Evans 2003). Because of the presence of this “second nose,” scents are very important tools of communication in New World monkeys, and common marmosets convey information by marking objects with secretions from specialized scent glands on their chests and around their anus and genitals (Lazaro-Perea et al. 1999). The main information conveyed by scent-marking includes demarcating home range and resources within that range, signifying social status, and advertising reproductive status (Stevenson & Rylands 1988; Lazaro-Perea et al. 1999; Ziegler et al. 2005).

Content last modified: May 18, 2005

Written by Kristina Cawthon Lang. Reviewed by Toni Ziegler.

Cite this page as:
Cawthon Lang KA. 2005 May 18. Primate Factsheets: Common marmoset (Callithrix jacchus) Behavior . <>. Accessed 2020 July 30.

View a family of common marmosets live via The Callicam!


For individual primate species conservation status, please search the IUCN Red List.
Also search the current scientific literature for primate conservation status (overall as well as for individual species), and visit CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora).

Common marmoset
Callithrix jacchus

Conservation information last updated in 2005 follows, for comparison:

The common marmoset is abundant. Though they are not currently threatened in any parts of their range, common marmosets are losing habitat at an alarming rate, and land-use policy should reflect the need to protect these animals before they meet the fate of so many of their primate cousins.


Threat: Human-Induced Habitat Loss and Degradation

Unfortunately, the Brazilian cerrado region has suffered from conservation efforts focused on the rainforests of the Amazon in recent decades. Before 1950, the cerradão was thought to be economically useless because of its climate during the dry season, poor soils, frequent fires, and restricted access to populated areas of Brazil. As large-scale agribusiness ventures were driven out of the rainforest, the prospect of cheap land in the cerrado region coupled with technological improvements in farming and agriculture facilitated large scale conversion of this biome to cropland. By the 1990s at least 67% of the cerrado region was converted to intensive human use and current estimates calculate that up to 80% has been cleared for agriculture (Cavalcanti & Joly 2002). While marmosets are not currently threatened, a major part of their habitat is disappearing and it is unknown how populations will react if they must live in increasingly smaller patches of habitat, regardless of how well they succeed in edge habitats.

Threat: Invasive Alien Species

Common marmosets are susceptible to a number of parasites and pathogens, but none threaten their abundance. Some parasites that are problematic include lice, flies, and ticks, which can spread zoonotic diseases as they move between hosts, as well as acari, arthropods that parasitize the skin and hair follicles and lead to sarcoptic mange, a disease of the skin that causes lesions, hair loss, anorexia, and extreme weight loss (Rylands et al. 2001). Some pathogens that wild common marmosets are susceptible to include toxoplasmosis, herpesviruses, hepatitis, Salmonella, Shigella, Escheria coli, Streptococchus, Staphylococcus, Pnuemococchus, leptospirosis, and multiple fungal diseases (Rylands et al. 2001). Though these diseases are potentially life-threatening to individual animals or may affect a group of common marmosets, they are not a direct threat to the survival of the species at this time.

Threat: Harvesting (hunting/gathering)

Attractive as pets in South and Central America, common marmosets are often captured and sold in the pet trade (Rylands et al. 2001; Duarte-Quiroga & Estrada 2003). In Mexico City, a common marmoset can be purchased for about US$2000 (Durate-Quiroga & Estrada 2003). Once taken as pets, marmosets and other primates suffer from poor diet, exposure to foreign diseases, and inadequate husbandry. Moreover, once they age and become more destructive in their play patterns and less ideal as pets, monkeys are often abandoned or killed (Duarte-Quiroga & Estrada 2003). It is unknown how many common marmosets are kept as pets in private homes.

Threat: Human Disturbance

Common marmosets are also subject to forest fires in parts of their range. Historically, indigenous people set fire to the cerrado every three to five years to regenerate new growth and aid in agriculture practices (de Castro & Kauffman 1998).


The use of common marmosets in biomedical research has been prevalent in the United States and abroad since the 1960s. Because of their susceptibility to a large number of viral infections, taxonomical closeness to humans, large wild populations that could be harvested without threat, high reproductive rate, and small body size, marmosets were considered good candidates for captive studies and their use exploded in studies of teratology, periodontal disease, and reproduction (Rylands 1997). Export bans in Brazil necessitated the establishment of self-sustaining colonies in the early 1970s, and no common marmosets have been taken from the wild for use in biomedical research since 1974. Vigorous research on their behavior, husbandry, health, and breeding has helped maintain large captive populations in federally funded National Primate Research Centers, academic institutions, pharmaceutical companies, and commercial breeding facilities in the US and Europe (Rylands 1997). In Europe, common marmosets are even more widely used in research than in the US and are the most frequently used non-human primate in research laboratories (Abbott et al. 2003). Other areas of research in which marmoset models are indispensable include immunology, endocrinology, obesity, and aging (Abbott et al. 2003).





Content last modified: May 18, 2005

Written by Kristina Cawthon Lang. Reviewed by Toni Ziegler.

Cite this page as:
Cawthon Lang KA. 2005 May 18. Primate Factsheets: Common marmoset (Callithrix jacchus) Conservation . <>. Accessed 2020 July 30.

View a family of common marmosets live via The Callicam!

The following references were used in the writing of this factsheet. To find current references for Callithrix jacchus, search PrimateLit.


Abbott DH. 1984. Behavioral and physiological suppression of fertility in subordinate marmoset monkeys. Am J Primatol 6: 169-86.

Abbott DH, Barnett DK, Colman RJ, Yamamoto ME, Schultz-Darken NJ. 2003. Aspects of common marmoset basic biology and life history important for biomedical research. Compar Med 53(4): 339-50.

Common marmoset artwork
Callithrix jacchus

Albuquerque ACSR, Sousa MBC, Santos HM, Ziegler TE. 2001. Behavioral and hormonal analysis of social relationships between oldest females in a wild monogamous group of common marmosets (Callithrix jacchus). Int J Primatol 22(4): 631-45.

Arruda MF, Araujo A, Sousa MBC, Albuquerque FS, Albuquerque ACSR, Yamamoto ME. 2005. Two breeding females within free-living groups may not always indicate polygyny: alternative subordinate female strategies in common marmosets (Callithrix jacchus). Folia Primatol 76(1): 10-20.

Baker JV, Abbott DH, Saltzman W. 1999. Social determinants of reproductive failure in male common marmosets housed with their natal family. Anim Behav 58(3): 501-13.

Cavalcanti RB, Joly CA. 2002. Biodiversity and conservation priorities in the cerrado region. In: Oliveira PS, Marquis RJ, editors. The cerrados of Brazil: ecology and natural history of a neotropical savanna. New York: Columbia Univ Pr. p 351-67.

de Castro EA, Kauffman JB. 1998. Ecosystem structure in the Brazilian cerrado: a vegetation gradient of aboveground biomass, root mass and consumption by fire. J Trop Ecol 14: 263-83.

Di Bitetti MS, Janson CH. 2000. When will the stork arrive? Patterns of birth seasonality in neotropical primates. Am J Primatol 50: 109-30.

Dietz JM. 2004. Kinship structure and reproductive skew in cooperatively breeding primates. In: Chapais B, Berman CM, editors. Kinship and behavior in primates. Oxford (England): Oxford Univ Pr. p 223-41.

Digby LJ. 1995. Social organization in a wild population of Callithrix jacchus: II, Intragroup social behavior. Primates 36(3): 361-75.

Digby LJ. 1999. Sexual behavior and extragroup copulations in a wild population of common marmosets (Callthrix jacchus). Folia Primatol 70: 136-45.

Digby LJ, Barreto CE. 1993. Social organization in a wild population of Callithrix jacchus: I, Group competition and dynamics. Folia Primatol 61: 123-34.

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Content last modified: May 18, 2005



Callithrix jacchus
Photo: David Abbott
Callithrix jacchus
Photo: Gustl Anzenberger
Callithrix jacchus
Photo: Gustl Anzenberger
Callithrix jacchus
Photo: J. Lenon, WPRC
Callithrix jacchus
Photo: J. Lenon, WPRC
Callithrix jacchus
Photo: Ludwig Miller
Callithrix jacchus
Photo: Ludwig Miller
Callithrix jacchus
Photo: Luiz Claudio Marigo
Callithrix jacchus
Photo: Luiz Claudio Marigo
Callithrix jacchus
Photo: Primates in Art & Illustration Collection

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