Social Hierarchy and Dispersal in Free-Ranging Buffy-Headed Marmosets (Callithrix flaviceps)

  • Stephen F. Ferrari
Part of the Developments in Primatology: Progress and Prospects book series (DIPR)


Behavior patterns in a large, free-ranging social group of buffy-headed marmosets (Callithrix flaviceps) were monitored over a 7-month period during which four adults – one male and three females – emigrated in two separate events. Social interactions such as play and allogrooming were relatively frequent, but agonistic interactions were rare, being observed, on average, less than twice per observation day for a group with between seven and ten adult members at any given time. With the exception of events involving the breeding female, intra-sexual agonism was almost non-existent between adults, and male→female aggression was five times more frequent than female→male. Absent between males and rare in females, submissive behavior was almost invariably directed by non-breeding females towards males and the breeding female. Taken together, these interactions point to a three-tiered social hierarchy within the group, with the breeding female in the top tier, followed by males in the second, and finally, non-breeding females. However, no one male was more dominant socially than any other, nor was any non-breeding female more subordinate. Male and female group members dispersed under different circumstances, but there is little evidence in either case to suggest that emigrations were a consequence of intra-group agonism, related to social rank or to competition for resources.


Agonistic Interaction Agonistic Behavior Breeding Female Submissive Behavior Plant Exudate 
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Patrones de comportamiento en un grupo de Callithrix flaviceps fueron monitoreados a lo largo de un período de siete meses durante el cual cuatro adultos –un macho y tres hembras- emigraron en dos eventos distintos. Las interacciones sociales como un comportamiento lúdico y acicalamiento fueron relativamente frecuentes, pero las interacciones agonísticas fueron raras, siendo observadas, en promedio, menos de dos veces por día de observación para un grupo de entre siete y diez miembros adultos en un momento dado. Con la excepción de los eventos que involucraron a la hembra en estado de reproducción, el agonismo intrasexual estuvo prácticamente ausente entre los adultos, y la agresión macho→hembra fue cinco veces más frecuente que entre hembra→macho. Ausente entre los machos, y raro entre las hembras, el comportamiento sumiso fue casi siempre dirigido hacia machos y a hembras reproductoras por hembras no reproductoras. Analizadas en conjunto, las interacciones indican que una jerarquia social de tres camaradas dentro de un grupo: hembra reproductora→macho→hembra no reproductora. Sin embargo, ningún macho fue más dominante socialmente que cualquier otro, y ninguna hembra fue más subordinada. Los miembros de los dos sexos se dispersaron bajo diferentes circunstancias, pero existe poca evidencia de que las emigraciones estuvieran relacionadas de alguna forma con agonismo dentro del grupo, sea relacionado con la posición social o a la competición por recursos.


Padrões comportamentais em um grupo silvestre de sagüis-da-serra (Callithrix flaviceps) foram monitorados ao longo de um período de sete meses durante o qual quatro adultos – um macho e três fêmeas – emigraram em dois eventos distintos. Interações sociais como o comportamento lúdico, e a alocatação foram relativamente freqüentes, embora interações agonísticas foram raras. Agonismo foi observado menos do que duas vezes por dia, em média, neste grupo, que continha de sete a dez membros adultos, em um dado momento. Com a exceção de eventos que envolveram a fêmea reprodutora, o agonismo intrasexual foi praticamente ausente entre adultos, e a agressão macho→fêmea foi cinco vezes mais freqüente que fêmea→macho. Ausente entre machos, e raro em fêmeas, o comportamento submissivo foi quase sempre direcionado a machos e a fêmea reprodutora por fêmeas não reprodutivas. Analisadas em conjunto, as interações indicam uma hierarquia social de três camadas dentro do grupo, com a fêmea reprodutora na primeira camada, seguido pelos machos na segunda, e finalmente as fêmeas não reprodutivas. Entretanto, nenhum macho foi mais dominante socialmente do que qualquer outro, e nenhuma fêmea foi mais subordinada. Os emigrantes dos dois sexos dispersaram sob circunstâncias diferentes, mas existe pouca evidência de que as emigrações foram relacionadas de alguma forma com agonismo dentro do grupo, relacionado a posição social ou a competição por recursos.



This study was supported by the Brazilian National Research Council (CNPq, process no. 307506/2003-7), the Medical Research Council of Great Britain, the A.H. Schultz-Stiftung, London University Central Research Fund, the Boise Fund and the Leakey Trust. I am especially grateful to Bob Martin, Cida Lopes, and Vânia Diego. An early version of this paper was presented at the 15th IPS Congress, in the symposium on “New World primates with parental care” organized by Hilary Box and Gisela Epple.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversidade Federal de SergipeSão CristóvãoBrazil

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