Variable infant care contributions in cooperatively breeding groups of wild saddleback tamarins

Author ORCID Identifier

Ann Dzuranin:

Candice Hux:

Publication Title

American Journal of Primatology





Document Type



Among non-human primates, alloparental infant care is most extensive in callitrichines, and is thought to be particularly costly for tamarins whose helpers may suffer increased energy expenditure, weight loss, and reduced feeding time and mobility. The costs and benefits of infant care likely vary among group members yet very few wild studies have investigated variable infant care contributions. We studied infant care over an 8-month period in four wild groups of saddleback tamarins in Bolivia to evaluate: (a) what forms of infant care are provided, by whom, and when, (b) how individuals adjust their behavior (activity, vigilance, height) while caring for infants, and (c) whether individuals differ in their infant care contributions. We found that infant carrying, food sharing, and grooming varied among groups, and immigrant males—those who joined the group after infants were conceived—participated less in infant care compared to resident males. Adult tamarins fed less, rested more, and increased vigilance while carrying infants. Although we did not detect changes in overall activity budgets between prepartum and postpartum periods, tamarins spent more time scanning their environments postpartum, potentially reflecting increased predation risk to both carriers and infants during this period. Our study provides the first quantitative data on the timing and amount of infant carrying, grooming, and food transfer contributed by all individuals within and among multiple wild groups, filling a critical knowledge gap about the factors affecting infant care, and highlighting evolutionary hypotheses for cooperative breeding in tamarins.

Publication Date




PubMed ID



allocare, callitrichines, food sharing, kin selection, reproductive strategies


Department of Anthropology