Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology

, Volume 46, Issue 5, pp 313-324

First online:

Scent-marking behavior in wild groups of common marmosets (Callithrix jacchus)

  • Cristina Lazaro-PereaAffiliated withDepartment of Zoology, Brogden Psychology Building University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1202 W. Johnson Street Madison, WI 53706, USA e.mail: cmlazaro@students.wisc.edu Tel.: +1-608-2621884, Fax: +1-608-2624029
  • , Charles T. SnowdonAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Brogden Psychology Building University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1202 W. Johnson Street Madison, WI 53706, USA
  • , Maria  de Fátima ArrudaAffiliated withSetor de Psicobiologia, Departamento de Fisiología Universidade Federal do Río Grande do Norte, CP 1511 Natal, RN 59072-970, Brazil

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Scent-marking in mammals has been frequently related to within-group social and reproductive dominance and to defense of territory and resources. We studied the scent-marking behavior of five wild groups of common marmosets, Callithrix jacchus, during 5 months of the fruiting season in northeastern Brazil. Circumgenital marking was the most common type of marking. Marks were distributed throughout the home range and were deposited mainly during travel and intergroup encounters. Although marks were commonly deposited at gum trees, there was no evidence that the animals used scent marks to label fruiting trees or sleeping sites. Contrary to expectations, reproductively dominant females did not mark more than reproductively subordinate females. Moreover, during intergroup encounters, reproductively subordinate females displayed higher frequencies of scent-marking than the reproductively dominant females of their group. Our results suggest that scent-marking is not strictly tied to reproductive dominance or territorial (or resource) defense in common marmosets. Because marks provide information about individual identity and reproductive condition, scent marks could serve different functions when used by different individuals. The high frequency of marking by reproductively subordinate females during intergroup encounters suggests that scent-marking might be used to signal to individuals of neighboring groups. Our data highlight the importance of social and ecological variables in scent-marking behavior.

Key words Scent-marking Reproductive dominance Territoriality Intergroup interactions Callithrix jacchus