Infant‐care behavior of mothers and fathers in a communal‐care primate, the cotton‐top tamarin (Saguinus oedipus)

Suzette D. Tardif, Robert L. Carson, Barbara L. Gangaware

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Infant care behavior was examined for 35 litters of 23 different groups of captive cotton‐top tamarins. The behavior of mothers and fathers was compared to determine the effects of infant number and helper presence on each parent and to determine whether parents differed in responsiveness to infants. For young infants (1–4 weeks), the contribution of fathers to infant carrying was negatively correlated with helpers' contribution; as helpers carried more, fathers carried less. In contrast, the mothers' contribution to infant carrying was unaffected by helper contribution. Mothers carried older infants (5–8 weeks) less than did fathers, regardless of infant number or helper contribution. Fathers and mothers were equally likely to retrieve a non‐harassed infant; however, fathers were more likely than mothers to retrieve an infant being harassed. These results suggest that fathers are more responsive to infants than are mothers. Mothers may limit their involvement in infant care, as has been proposed by field results, due to an energetically demanding reproductive strategy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)73-85
Number of pages13
JournalAmerican Journal of Primatology
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1990
Externally publishedYes


  • Callitrichidae
  • communal infant care
  • maternal behavior
  • paternal behavior
  • tamarin

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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