The composition of milk from free-living common marmosets (Callithrix jacchus) in Brazil



Common marmosets, one of the smallest anthropoid primates, have a relatively high reproductive rate, capable of producing twins or triplets twice per year. Growth and development of infants is relatively rapid, and lactation is relatively short at less than 3 months. Although mean values for the proximate composition (dry matter, protein, fat and sugar) of captive common marmoset milks fall within anthropoid norms, composition is highly variable among individual samples, with concentrations of milk fat ranging from below 1 to over 10%. To examine the extent to which this variation might be a consequence of captive conditions, we collected milk samples from wild common marmosets freely living on a farm in the state of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The proximate composition of the milk samples was assayed using identical techniques as used for the captive marmoset milks. The composition of the milk of wild common marmosets was also variable, but tended to be lower in dry matter, fat, protein and gross energy, and higher in sugar than milks from captive animals. Interestingly, the percentage of estimated gross energy from the protein fraction of the milks was relatively constant in both wild and captive marmosets and did not differ between wild and captive animals: 1 kcal of common marmoset milk contains on average (±SEM) 0.035±.001 g of protein regardless of the gross energy content of the milk or whether the milk was from a wild or captive animal. In contrast, in 1 kcal of low-energy milks, the amount of sugar was significantly higher and the amount of fat significantly lower than in 1 kcal of high-energy milks. Thus, common marmoset milk exhibits axes of variability (especially fat concentration) as well as a significant stability in the relative amount of protein. Am. J. Primatol. 70:78–83, 2008. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.