Cotton-top Tamarins


I promised a brief post on the cotton-top tamarin.  The following language was taken from Dr. Savage’s website  The pictures are from my recent trip to Colombia to visit Dr. Savage’s field site.


About the size of a squirrel, the cotton-top tamarin is a New World primate that is noted for its shock of white hair. The large shock of white fur on its head gives the cotton-top tamarin its most appropriate name. Males and females are not sexually dimorphic weighing approximately 404-417 g in the wild to 565-700 g in captivity (Savage 1990; Savage et al. 1993). Knee-to-heel length (M=7.26 cm) and head to tail length (M=23.07 cm) appear to be similar for both wild and captive cotton-top tamarins (see Savage 1990 for a complete review). The face of the cotton-top tamarin is black, temples and sides of head are covered with short adpressed silvery hairs. The face is adorned with grayish or whitish supraorbital band, with a grayish fringe across the muzzle to each corner of the mouth. There is a wedge-shaped midfrontal white crest. The dorsal surface of the body is primarily black or brown, while the underparts of the body, arms, and legs are predominantly white (Hershovitz 1977).


The cotton-top tamarin (Saguinus oedipus) is one of the most endangered primates in the world. The species was declared endangered in 1973 following the exportation of 20,000-40,000 tamarins to the United States for use in biomedical research (Hernandez-Camacho and Cooper 1976; Clapp et al. 1982). In the late 1970s and throughout much of the 1980s, cotton-top tamarins were found to spontaneously develop colonic adenocarcinoma. They served as the primary model for indepth studies of this disease throughout much of this decade. Today the greatest threat to the survival of the cotton-top tamarin is deforestation for agriculture, fuel, and housing, in addition to collection for the local pet trade in Colombia (Mast & Patino 1988). Occurrences of the illegal trade of cotton-tops still continues throughout much of the world despite international laws condemning such activity.

Tracking Device on Back

Tracking Device on Back


A census was conducted in 2005-2006 examining the status of the wild population of cotton-top tamarins. Results of the census indicated that the cotton-top tamarin has been severly impacted by the significant habitat destruction that has occurred thoughout its range in Colombia.  The results of the census in addition to the challenges with habitat destruction, resulted in the IUCN Primate Specialist Group recommending the classification of cotton-top tamarins be changed to Critically Endangered in 2008.


Notice the Burlington Hat

Notice the Burlington Hat





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