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Keywords:

  • common marmoset;
  • cotton-top tamarin;
  • olfactory;
  • reproduction;
  • social effects

Most primates are social species whose reproduction is influenced by their social relationships. The cotton-top tamarin, Saguinus oedipus, and the common marmoset, Callithrix jacchus, are cooperative breeding species where the family structure alters reproductive function in many ways. While primates receive social effects on reproduction via all sensory stimuli, the marmosets and tamarins are particularly influenced by olfactory/chemosensory stimuli. The olfactory sensory processing is the “social glue” that keeps the family together. This review describes a number of studies using the marmosets and tamarins at the University of Wisconsin to demonstrate how odor cues are used for altering reproductive function and dysfunction. Several key studies will be discussed to show the role of odor signaling of the female reproductive state. The suppressive effects of odors are mediated by priming odors and can cause a suppressive influence on ovulation in young females via their mother's scents. Additionally, odor cues from the infant function as priming odors to ensure that fathers and mothers are present and receptive to their parental care duties. Neural pathways occur via the processing of priming odors that consequently stimulate alterations in the behavioral and endocrine response to the stimuli. The dynamics of the cooperative breeding system ensure that offspring have essential needs met and that they develop in a family environment. Olfactory communication plays a key role in maintenance of the social system of Callitrichid monkeys. Am. J. Primatol. 75:202-211, 2013. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.