Matrilineal genetic structure within and among populations of the cooperatively breeding common marmoset, Callithrix jacchus


Chris G. Faulkes. Fax: 020 89830973; E-mail:


Common marmosets are members of the family Callitrichidae, South American primates characterized by highly social group living and cooperative breeding. In this study we analysed 1112 base pairs (bp) of the mitochondrial control region in 59 Callithrix jacchus individuals, sampled mainly from two geographically distinct field sites in N.E. Brazil. Analysis of molecular variation revealed a highly significant genetic structuring of haplotypes between social groups and between populations. Examination of matrilineal genetic structure within social groups revealed that seven of nine recorded breeding pairs were from different maternal lineages, indicating assortative mating and outbreeding. In addition to the breeders, at least six of 10 groups contained adult individuals from different matrilines, with five haplotypes present in one social group of nine animals. Groups of mixed lineages raise questions about potential reproductive conflicts of interest, and the extent of kin-selected altruism in the evolution and maintenance of cooperative breeding in this species.