Callithrix flavicepsbuffy-headed marmoset

Geographic Range

Callithrix flaviceps is endemic to the Atlantic rainforests of southeastern Brazil. It is found at altitudes greater than 400 meters. It is currently limited to mostly privately owned pockets of remnant rainforest in the Brazilian states of Espirito Santo and Minas Gerais. (Ferrari 1998)


Buffy-headed marmosets prefer densely vegetated forest edge habitats, such as secondary and disturbed forests that are either natural or man-made.

  • Range elevation
    400 (low) m
    1312.34 (low) ft

Physical Description

Buffy-headed marmosets share many characteristics with other New World monkeys, including long tails and downward-flaring nostrils. As they are marmosets, they are among the world's smallest primates. Buffy-headed marmosets can be readily distinguished from other marmosets by white tufts of hair that flare horizontally from the sides of the head, and a face that is mostly white aside from darker hair immediately surrounding the eyes and nose. Additionally, they are darker in general coloration, with the dorsal side being darker than the ventral side, and the tail possessing alternating bands of black and lighter colored hair. They have non-opposable thumbs and their nails are claw-like (Ferrari 1998). Males and females are similar in size. Marmosets range from 180 to 300 mm in total body length, from 172 to 405 mm in tail length, and 230 to 453 grams in weight (Nowak, 1991).

  • Range mass
    230 to 453 g
    8.11 to 15.96 oz
  • Range length
    180 to 300 mm
    7.09 to 11.81 in


Polygyny and polyandry have been observed in buffy-headed marmoset groups, however, monogamy is the dominant social form.

Buffy-headed marmosets have a gestation length of 140 to 150 days. This species also typically gives birth to twins, a hallmark of the family Callitrichidae. Females breed continuously and, with a gestational period of just under five months, can potentially give birth three times within a twelve month period. After birth, the entire social group helps care for the young for about a month, after which time the young are not entirely dependent on the older members of the group. (Ferrari 1998)

  • Breeding season
    Breeding occurs year-round.
  • Range number of offspring
    1 to 4
  • Average number of offspring
  • Range gestation period
    140 to 150 days
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    20-24 months
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    9-13 months

Young marmosets are nursed by their mother and cared for by their social group for about one month after birth, perhaps longer. Little is known about reproduction in this species.

  • Parental Investment
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female


Lifespan in the genus Callithrix seems to be about 10 years in the wild and up to 16 years in captivity (Nowak, 1991).

  • Range lifespan
    Status: wild
    10 (high) years
  • Range lifespan
    Status: captivity
    16 (high) years


Buffy-headed marmosets live in social groups of multiple individuals, with larger groups consisting of up to fifteen or so marmosets. These groups consist of related individuals, and display matriarchal dominance. Each group usually contains only one breeding female. However, recent studies have shown that in at least one group of buffy-headed marmosets polygyny, polyandry and monogamy all occur, with monogamy occurring most often. They are primarily active during the day and maintain family group home ranges. (Ferrari 1987, 1998)

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

While buffy-headed marmosets do eat insects and fruit, they are noted for their ability to extract nutrition from plant gums. For most of the year, fruit (the staple of most New World monkey diets) is scarce in the marmoset's habitat. Due to their reliance on gum, marmosets have developed multiple specializations. Firstly, gum is produced by plants in relatively small amounts. Therefore, marmosets are small (rarely weighing more than a pound) and possess claw-like nails, sharp incisors (outward facing, narrow incisors that lack enamel on the interior side to increase sharpness) and a rough tongue for efficient gum extraction. Secondly, the bulk of gum's carbohydrate content is found as complex polysaccharides. Therefore, the marmosets have specialized digestive systems to process this food source, consisting of a specialized caecum and specialized gut bacteria that contribute to fermentation. The majority of gum that buffy-headed marmosets feed on is extracted from acacia trees, Acacia paniculata, which dominates the marginal and secondary forests the marmoset lives in. It is especially interesting to note that , instead of continually gouging new holes in the acacias, marmosets regularly use established feeding sites, which maintains the freshness and therefore nutritional value of the gum they are ingesting, as well as minimizing the energy expended acquiring the gum. Plant gum makes up 72.5% of their plant diet and fruits, seeds, nectar, and flowers makes up 15.9% of their plant diet. (Ferrari 1998)

  • Primary Diet
  • herbivore
    • eats sap or other plant foods
  • Animal Foods
  • insects
  • terrestrial non-insect arthropods
  • Plant Foods
  • fruit
  • nectar
  • flowers
  • sap or other plant fluids


Buffy-headed marmosets display many anti-predator adaptations common to New World monkeys as well as other marmosets, such as sociality marked by altruistic behaviors such as alarm calls and relatively small size. They are also nimble and fast in their arboreal habitat. Their main predators are raptors and small cat species, such as ocelots, they may also fall prey to large snakes. (Ferrari 1998)

Ecosystem Roles

Buffy-headed marmosets may be important as seed dispersers. They influence plant growth through foraging on plant gums.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Buffy-headed marmosets are important as a focus of ecotourism. Unfortunately, some animals are taken for the exotic pet trade.

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no adverse effects of buffy-headed marmosets.

Conservation Status

Buffy-headed marmosets are IUCN endangered primarily because of the small range of their habitat and small effective population size which, as of 2000, was expected to show at least a 20% decline in the next five years. The main threat to this marmoset species is the destruction of its habitat, along with human predation (capture for the exotic pet trade). It should be noted that buffy-headed marmosets are the rarest of all marmoset species. (IUCN 2000)


Zachary Throckmorton (author), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, Kerry Yurewicz (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

World Map

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

dominance hierarchies

ranking system or pecking order among members of a long-term social group, where dominance status affects access to resources or mates


humans benefit economically by promoting tourism that focuses on the appreciation of natural areas or animals. Ecotourism implies that there are existing programs that profit from the appreciation of natural areas or animals.


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.


An animal that eats mainly plants or parts of plants.


offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).


Having one mate at a time.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


Referring to a mating system in which a female mates with several males during one breeding season (compare polygynous).


having more than one female as a mate at one time


rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Epiphytes and climbing plants are also abundant. Precipitation is typically not limiting, but may be somewhat seasonal.


remains in the same area


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


associates with others of its species; forms social groups.


uses touch to communicate


Living on the ground.


defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.


reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.

year-round breeding

breeding takes place throughout the year


2000. "2000 IUCN Red List of Endangered Species - Callithrix flaviceps" (On-line). Accessed March 20, 2002 at

Ferrari, S. 1998. Diet for a Small Primate. Pp. 168-173 in R Ciochon, R Nisbett, eds. The Primate Anthology. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall.

Ferrari, S. 1987. Food Transfer in a Wild Marmoset Group. Folia Primatologia, 48: 203-206.

Nowak, R. 1991. Walker's Mammals of the World. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.