The behavioral context of visual displays in common marmosets (Callithrix jacchus)

Authors

  • Raïssa A. de Boer,

    1. Ethology Research, Animal Science Department, Biomedical Primate Research Center, Rijswijk, The Netherlands
    2. Animal Ecology, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands
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  • Anne M. Overduin-de Vries,

    1. Ethology Research, Animal Science Department, Biomedical Primate Research Center, Rijswijk, The Netherlands
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  • Annet L. Louwerse,

    1. Animal Science Department, Biomedical Primate Research Centre, Rijswijk, The Netherlands
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  • Elisabeth H.M. Sterck

    Corresponding author
    1. Ethology Research, Animal Science Department, Biomedical Primate Research Center, Rijswijk, The Netherlands
    2. Animal Ecology, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands
    • Correspondence to: Elisabeth H.M. Sterck, Animal Ecology, Utrecht University, Utrecht, The Netherlands. E-mail: e.h.m.sterck@uu.nl

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Abstract

Communication is important in social species, and may occur with the use of visual, olfactory or auditory signals. However, visual communication may be hampered in species that are arboreal have elaborate facial coloring and live in small groups. The common marmoset fits these criteria and may have limited visual communication. Nonetheless, some (contradictive) propositions concerning visual displays in the common marmoset have been made, yet quantitative data are lacking. The aim of this study was to assign a behavioral context to different visual displays using pre–post-event-analyses. Focal observations were conducted on 16 captive adult and sub-adult marmosets in three different family groups. Based on behavioral elements with an unambiguous meaning, four different behavioral contexts were distinguished: aggression, fear, affiliation, and play behavior. Visual displays concerned behavior that included facial expressions, body postures, and pilo-erection of the fur. Visual displays related to aggression, fear, and play/affiliation were consistent with the literature. We propose that the visual display “pilo-erection tip of tail” is related to fear. Individuals receiving these fear signals showed a higher rate of affiliative behavior. This study indicates that several visual displays may provide cues or signals of particular social contexts. Since the three displays of fear elicited an affiliative response, they may communicate a request of anxiety reduction or signal an external referent. Concluding, common marmosets, despite being arboreal and living in small groups, use several visual displays to communicate with conspecifics and their facial coloration may not hamper, but actually promote the visibility of visual displays. Am. J. Primatol. 75:1084–1095, 2013. © 2013 The Authors. American Journal of Primatology Published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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