• tamarin monkeys;
  • Saguinus;
  • learning


From field data collected in the Amazon Basin of northeastern Peru, I present evidence that moustached (Saguinus mystax) and saddle-back (Saguinus fuscicollis) tamarins maintain detailed knowledge of the distribution and location of many tree species in their home range. During the wet season months of October through December 1984, fruits and exudates from 20 tree species and over 150 individual trees accounted for 75% of plant feeding time. These trees exhibited a patchy distribution; mean nearest-neighbor distances between trees of the same species averaged 148 meters. Moustached and saddle-back tamarins visited an average of 13 trees per day, concentrating their feeding efforts on 4–11 individual trees from a small number of target species. In 70% of all cases the nearest tree of a given species was selected as the next feeding site. Movement between these sites was characterized by relatively straight-line travel. It is argued that S. mystax and S. fuscicollis offset the patchiness component of the fruit and exudate part of their diet through goal-directed foraging and an ability to compare accurately the distances and directions from their present location to a large number of potential feeding trees.