Cottontop Tamarin - Behavior - Social Systems - Cooperation


In this primate’s cooperatively breeding social structure, the effort put into caring for the dominant breeder’s offspring is shared by the group members. Parents, siblings, and immigrant adults will share child rearing duties for the breeding pair’s young. These duties include carrying, protecting, feeding, comforting, and even engaging in play behavior with the group’s young. Cotton-top tamarins display high levels of parental investment during infant care. Males, particularly those that are paternal, show a greater involvement in caregiving than do females. Despite this, both male and female infants prefer contact and proximity to their mothers over their fathers. It is hypothesized that males invest additional support in rearing offspring as a form of courtship to win favor of the group’s dominant female. Still, evidence indicates that time spent carrying infants does not correlate with a male's overall copulation frequency.

Since only one female in a group breeds, heavy investment in infant care ensures that the limited brood of the breeding pair survives until independence. Accordingly, cotton-top tamarins bear excessive costs in order to care for the group’s young. Male carriers, especially paternal carriers, incur large energetic costs for the sake of the group’s young. The burden of infant care forces some male cotton-tops to lose up to 10-11% of their total body weight when engaging in infant carrying behavior. This large weight loss may occur from reduced food intake as infant carrying inhibits foraging ability for a carrier. The trend of male-carrier weight loss and decreased food intake is in contrast to the dominant female’s periovulatory period, when she gains weight after increasing her own food intake and relinquishing much of her infant carrying duties.

Read more about this topic:  Cottontop Tamarin, Behavior, Social Systems

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