• Marmosets;
  • Tamarins;
  • Feeding adaptations;
  • Positional behavior;
  • Trunk foraging


Primates of the subfamily Callitrichinae (Callimico, Callithrix, Leontopithecus, and Saguinus) are small-bodied New World monkeys (105–700 g) possessing clawlike nails on all manual and pedal digits excluding the hallux. Specialized nails in these genera serve a critical function in feeding by enabling tamarins and marmosets to cling to trunks and other large vertical supports while exploiting food resources. Within the subfamily, there is evidence of at least four distinct large-branch feeding patterns. These include (1) seasonal exudate feeding and occasional trunk foraging (many Saguinus spp.); (2) exploitation of bark surface insects and the use of trunks as a platform to locate terrestrial prey (Saguinus fuscicollis, S. nigricollis, and Callimico); (3) manipulative foraging and bark stripping to locate concealed insects and small vertebrates (Leontopithecus); and (4) tree gouging and year-round exudate feeding (many Callithrix). Large-branch feeding and the use of vertical clinging postures appear to be a primary adaptation among virtually all callitrichines, distinguishing them ecologically from other platyrrhine taxa. Given the anatomy and behavior of extant callitrichines, Saguinus appears to be the most ecologically generalized member of this subfamily, and species of this genus may provide useful models for reconstructing the feeding and foraging adaptations of early callitrichines. © 1992 Wiley-Liss, inc.