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The division of Amazon monkeys into large and small is artificial convenience but the distinction has some relevance. There are two basic groups of Amazon primates, monkeys with prehensile tails, and monkeys without prehensile tails. A prehensile tail acts a fifth limb and enables the monkey to hang from branches with it. Small monkeys do not generally have this prehensile tail. (You can read more about the prehensile tail in the section on large monkeys.)

The smallest Amazon monkeys are marmosets and tamarins, classified in the subfamily Callitrichinae. (Taxonomists now include them in the the family Cebidae, but used to classify them seperately.) Other small monkeys in the cebid family weighing less than about 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) include the squirrel monkeys. (Night monkeys and titi monkeys are also small but are in different families; these groups are covered in large monkeys.) These are in another subfamily, Saimiriinae, and are about twice the size of marmosets and tamarins. The organization of these into groups is done according to rules of taxonomy. These rules are rather complicated but they enable scientists to understand differences between different species and the groups they belong to. (Wikipedia has a list of all species and taxonomic groups in the family Cebidae.)

Bear in mind that the numbers and kinds of Amazon monkeys is not set in stone. With new DNA evidence scientists might change their minds about how species are related—they might decide what were considered two species are one, or vice versa. Also new species might be found. For example, in 1992, a new species, the Maués Marmoset, (Callithrix mauesi) was discovered near the Rio Maués in Brazil.

There are about 55 species in the family Cebidae, of which 35 or so are found in the Amazon River basin. Here is a list of Amazon monkeys in the family. (Wikipedia has a list of all species and taxonomic groups in the family Cebidae.)

Marmosets Callithrix
Black-headed Marmoset Callithrix (Mico) nigriceps
Black-tailed Marmoset Callithrix (Mico) melanura
Black-tufted Marmoset Callithrix (Callithrix) penicillata
Dwarf Marmoset Callithrix (Callibella) humilis
Emilia's Marmoset Callithrix (Mico) emiliae
Gold-and-white Marmoset Callithrix (Mico) chrysoleuca
Hershkovitz's or Tassel-ear Marmoset Callithrix (Mico) intermedia
Marca's Marmoset Callithrix (Mico) marcai
Maués Marmoset Callithrix (Mico) mauesi
Pygmy Marmoset Callithrix (Cebuella) pygmaea
Rio Acari Marmoset Callithrix acariensis
Rio Manicore Marmoset Callithrix manicorensis
Santarem Marmoset Callithrix (Mico) humeralifera
Silvery Marmoset Callithrix (Mico) argentata
White Marmoset Callithrix (Mico) leucippe
Tamarins Saguinus, Callimico
Red-handed Tamarin Saguinus midas
Black Tamarin Saguinus niger
Black-mantled Tamarin Saguinus nigricollis
Graellss Tamarin Saguinus graellsi
Brown-mantled Tamarin Saguinus fuscicollis
Golden-mantled Tamarin Saguinus tripartitus
Moustached Tamarin Saguinus mystax
White-lipped Tamarin Saguinus labiatus
Emperor Tamarin Saguinus imperator
Pied Tamarin Saguinus bicolor
Martinss Tamarin Saguinus martinsi
White-mantled Tamarin* Saguinus melanoleucus
Red-capped Tamarin Saguinus pileatus
Goeldi's monkey Callimico goeldii
Capuchins Cebus
White-fronted Capuchin Cebus albifrons
Weeper Capuchin Cebus olivaceus
Kaapori Capuchin Cebus kaapori
Tufted Capuchin Cebus apella
Black-striped Capuchin Cebus libidinosus
Squirrel Monkeys Saimiri
Common Squirrel Monkey Saimiri sciureus
Bare-eared Squirrel Monkey Saimiri ustus
Black-capped Squirrel Monkey Saimiri boliviensis
Black Squirrel Monkey Saimiri vanzolini

The main differences between marmosets and tamarins concerns their dentition, which is related to dietary preferences. Marmosets use specialized lower jaws and teeth (notably canine teeth that are small and flattened) to gnaw on the bark of trees and vines in which they dig holes. Plant sap seeps from the wounds, and is then fed upon by the monkey. Tamarins do not dig holes and have more generalized canine teeth, which are long and straight. Thus, small Amazon monkeys differ in details of their biology, but are generally similar in some respects.

Most species of small Amazon monkeys weigh 100 to 600 grams (3.5 ounces to 21 ounces). The largest is not much bigger than a squirrel. Long tassels, tufts and mustaches of hair decorate their heads, perhaps to enable individuals of different species to distinguish each other. Unlike larger monkeys and apes, these small monkeys have claws instead of nails. They come in a range of colors. The saddle-back tamarin is dark brown to red, while the bare-face tamarin has white forequarters with pale brown back and hindquarters.

These species and generally prefer wooded habitats with thick vegetation where insects and fruits are abundant. However, they adapt well to disturbed area and may be locally common around villages and in suburbs, even living in city parks. Some species are distributed widely, such as the pygmy marmoset and saddleback tamarin, both of which are found over much of western Amazonia. Other species have very narrow distributions, such as the golden-mantle tamarin, found only between the Napo and Curary rivers in eastern Ecuador and Peru. However, due to the difficulty of observing these small monkeys, the ranges of most species are not well known.

Both marmosets and tamarins feed on plant exudates (sap, resin, gum) although only the marmosets actively dig holes. The pygmy marmoset makes several small holes in a favored tree (only certain species are used) and then will return in successive days to feed on the resin that oozes from the holes. A family group has a number of particular trees that it visits again and again, doing the rounds during early morning or late afternoon. Tamarins feed on sap as well, but do not make the holes, being content to steal sap from the cuts made by marmosets. All the species are quite opportunistic eaters however, and will take insects and fruits and even small vertebrates when these are available.

Not all species have been studied in respect of their breeding and courtship. They generally live in small family groups led by a single breeding female. There may be a single male or several males, with a particular species being either polyandrous or monogamous. In most cases the males will carry the young. Females may give birth twice a year, when twins are often born. These monkeys are the only primates to regularly give birth to more than one offspring.

The conservation status of particular callitrichid species varies widely. Some species are abundant and widespread, such as the saddle-back tamarin, among the commonest Amazon primates. Visitors to the rainforest have a good chance of seeing this species in the wild. A number of species are rare and of limited distribution. Most of the species are not hunted, but they are at risk from deforestation. Endangered species found in the Amazon include the Brazilian bare-face tamarin (S. bicolor) which has the smallest geographic range of any Amazon monkey, restricted to a tiny strip of forest north of the Amazon River east of the Rio Negro.


Cebidae Family characteristics and taxonomy
Detailed species accounts
Classification and selected species accounts

Callitrichidae (no longer formally recognized)
Family Callitrichidae (marmosets and tamarins)
Family Callitrichidae
Wikipedia: Callitrichinae
InfoNatura Species Index: Family Callitrichidae
Diseases of the Callitrichidae: a review
Conservation Status of the Callitrichidae
Range maps of species of various monkey genera and primate-related topics
List of species with links to info
Summary of the Callithrix genus

Mainly photos
BBC Movies: Family Callitrichidae

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