The costs of infant carrying in captive cotton-top tamarins


  • Eluned C. Price

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Psychology, University of Stirling, United Kingdom
    • Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust, Les Augrès Manor, Trinity, Jersey, Channel Islands, Great Britain
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Marmosets and tamarins have a communal rearing system in which all group members help to care for the twin infants characteristic of this family of primates. Helpers are likely to incur time and energy costs by contributing to infant care. Predictions that cotton-top tamarin (Saguinus oedipus) helpers would change their behavior when carrying infants because of reduced mobility and/or a need for increased vigilance were tested in a captive colony. Tamarins carrying an infant spent significantly less time feeding, foraging, moving, or engaging in social activities such as grooming than they did when not carrying. Frequencies of scratching, autogrooming, and scent marking were significantly reduced in carriers, suggesting that their mobility was reduced. However, carriers were significantly less likely to be vigilant (measured by direction of gaze) than when not carrying. Further observations showed that carriers spent more time in concealed areas than they did when not carrying and were probably therefore adopting a cryptic strategy to reduce predation risks to themselves and to infants. These results demonstrate that tamarin helpers pay costs by carrying infants. Some possible compensating benefits are indicated.