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Alloparental Responsiveness to Newborns by Nonreproductive, Adult Male, Common Marmosets (Callithrix jacchus)


  • Contract grant sponsor: CNPq; Contract grant sponsor: FINEP; Contract grant sponsor: UFRN

Correspondence to: Maricele N. Barbosa, Departamento de Fisiologia, Centro de Biociências, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Norte, Caixa Postal 1511, Campus Universitário, 59078-970 Natal-RN, Brasil. E-mail:


Parental care in mammals is influenced by sensory stimuli from infants, and by changes in the hormone levels of caretakers. To determine the responsiveness to infant cues in nonreproductive adult male common marmosets (Callithrix jacchus) with and without previous experience in caretaking, we exposed 12 males to newborn marmosets and assessed their cortisol plasma levels and behavioral response. Newborn marmosets housed in transparent enclosures were placed inside the cages of the adult male subjects. Males were exposed four times to two different experimental conditions: (a) newborn enclosures remained closed during the observation period and (b) newborn enclosures were opened during the observation period to allow direct social interaction by the adult males. Blood samples from adult males were collected after each behavioral observation trial to measure the levels of cortisol. The behavioral responses of adult males exposed to the closed and open newborn enclosures showed a significant difference only with respect to the frequency of displacements, where males moved among the quadrants of their own cages with greater frequency when the newborn enclosure was sealed. Experienced males approached newborn enclosures more frequently, spent more time in close proximity, and carried and recovered newborns more quickly than inexperienced males. The successive exposure to newborns increased the responsiveness in inexperienced males. The highest levels of plasma cortisol in adult males were recorded following periods of exposure to the sealed newborn enclosures. This suggests that successive exposure to newborns and previous alloparental caregiving experience while living in family groups influences the responsiveness of male marmosets to the sensory cues of newborns. Am. J. Primatol. 75:145-152, 2013. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.