, Volume 46, Issue 5, pp 313-324

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

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Abstract

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.

Received: 26 October 1998 / Received in revised form: 20 May 1999 / Accepted: 30 May 1999