Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 16, Issue 4, pp 293–299

On the mating system of the cooperatively breeding saddle-backed tamarin (Saguinus fuscicollis)

  • John Terborgh
  • Ann Wilson Goldizen

DOI: 10.1007/BF00295541

Cite this article as:
Terborgh, J. & Goldizen, A.W. Behav Ecol Sociobiol (1985) 16: 293. doi:10.1007/BF00295541


This paper reports on 5 years of observatiors of individually marked saddle-backed tamarins (Saguinus fuscicollis, Callitrichidae). Although callitrichids have long been presumed to have a monogamous social system, this study shows that the breeding structure of saddle-back tamarin groups is highly variable. Groups most commonly include two or more adult males and a single reproductive female, but occasionally contain only a single pair of adults, or less often, two reproductively active females and one or more males. Data on group compositions, group formations, intergroup movements and copulations show that the social and mating systems of this species are more flexible than those of any other non-human primate yet studied. Infants (usually twins) were cared for by all group members. There were two classes of helpers: young, nonreproductive individuals who helped to care for full or half siblings, and cooperatively polyandrous males who cared for infants whom they may have fathered. The observations suggest that non-reproductive helpers may benefit from their helping behavior through a combination of inclusive fitness gains, reciprocal altruism, and the value of gaining experience at parental care.

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1985

Authors and Affiliations

  • John Terborgh
    • 1
  • Ann Wilson Goldizen
    • 2
  1. 1.Biology DepartmentPrinceton UniversityPrincetonUSA
  2. 2.Division of Biological SciencesUniversity of MichiganAnn ArborUSA