Saturday, June 19, 2010

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious Callitrichids!

An Emperor tamarin (Saguinus imperator) with his infant.

As Fathers Day approaches, I feel that it is appropriate to write a little bit about the Callitrichids. Callitrichids or Callitrichidae are New World Monkeys that includes tamarins and marmosets in it's genera. Callitrichids are generally "small-sized" and can be found in South America (New World). They live in social groups that are sometimes referred to as "cooperative polyandrous group". Callitrichids are usually polyandrous but a broad range of mating system had been recorded in the field (Falk, 2000). Generally, one female mates with multiple males in the group, although every individual in the group shares some responsibility in caring for the infant. Except the alpha female, other females in the social group do not reproduce. These females helps out in caring for the alpha female's offspring (Falk, 2000). But what does Callitrichids have to do with Father's Day, you say?

A baby Silvery Marmoset (Mico argentatus) clinging to its father.

Callitrichids are well known for its hardworking fathers. Paternal care is rare but not uncommon in primates. While some males have been observed taking care of an infant, true paternal care is defined as a biological father taking care of his biological offspring. Paternal care in Callitrichids are about the same and sometimes more than maternal care. With the exception of lactating, daddy does everything mummy does.

Golden lion tamarin twins (Leontopithecus rosalia) clinging on their father.

Other males in the group also helps out in caring for the alpha female's offspring. Field studies show that the presence of two or more males is associated with infant survival (Falk, 2000). The presence of at least two males in a group is thought to lessen the burden of the mother because these males act as principal caregivers for the infant by carrying them and providing them with solid food (Falk, 2000). Callitrichids are small-bodied animals, therefore they have high metabolic rates. These infants need food constantly and without the help of the males, the mother will never be able to keep up with feeding the infants, let alone carrying them around (Falk, 2000).

So on this Father's Day, let's celebrate one of the hardest working fathers (and males) in primate societies.

Falk, D. 2000. Primate Diversity. New York and London: W.W. Norton & Company.

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