Leontopithecus chrysopygusgolden-rumped lion tamarin

Geographic Range

Golden-rumped lion tamarins (Leontopithecus chrysopygus) at one time inhabited the vast tropical forest in the Central and Western portions of the state of Sao Paulo, Brazil. Now L. chrysopygus is limited to only two areas. One is the 375 square kilometer Morro do Diabo State Forest Reserve in southwesten Sao Paulo. The other is the Caiteus Reserve, a 23 square kilometer reserve in central Sao Paulo. (Beacham 1998)


Leontopithecus chrysopygus lives primarily in semideciduous forest of Sao Paulo. But it has also been know to occupy swamp forest and macega, a forest made up of mainly small bush-like trees. In these forests, L. chrysopygus lives approximately 3 to 12 meters above the ground, rarely going to the forest floor, giving it the classification of arboreal. (Flannery, 2000; Massicot, 2001; Nowak, 1999)

  • Range elevation
    0 to 700 m
    0.00 to 2296.59 ft

Physical Description

L. chrysopygus is covered almost completely in silky, dense black hair. The only place this differs is in the hind quarters. The thighs, buttocks, and base of the tail are colored a reddish-brown. This is what gives the animal its common name, golden-rumped lion tamarin. The face of L. chrysopygus is not haired, as well as the hands and feet, these are colored dark gray to black. The hind limbs are generally longer than the forelimbs and the tail is not prehensile. All digits have a pointed sickle shaped nail, which is used for gripping trees, except the big toe which has a flat nail. The dental formula is as follows, 2/2 incisors, 1/1 canines, 3/3 premolars, 2/2 molars. Body length in L. chrysopygus is between 20 cm and 33.5 cm, tail length is usually 31.5 to 40 cm, and mass ranges from 300 to 700 g. (Beacham 1998; Nowak 1999; Wolters 1990)

  • Range mass
    300 to 700 g
    10.57 to 24.67 oz
  • Average mass
    572.5 g
    20.18 oz
  • Range length
    20 to 33.5 cm
    7.87 to 13.19 in


Most cases have found L. chrysopygus to be monogamous when mating but there has been some polyandy observed in certain populations. In populations where there is more than one adult male per social group the female may mate with several males to confuse the males as to paternity of her young. This causes males to provide assistance in the care of offspring that may be their own.

Golden-rumped lion tamarins give birth most frequently to twins, though triplets and quadruplets have been reported. In other species of lion tamarin, gestation lasts from 125 to 132 days. Lion tamarins give birth during the rainy season, usually from September through March.

  • Key Reproductive Features
  • gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate)
  • sexual
  • Breeding season
    Breeding occurs from September through March, the wet season..
  • Range number of offspring
    1 to 4
  • Average number of offspring
  • Range gestation period
    125 to 132 days
  • Range weaning age
    2 to 3 months
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    16 to 24 months
  • Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    16 to 24 months

Both male and female golden-rumped lion tamarins aid in the rearing of offspring. The young are born well-furred and with their eyes open, but are entirely dependent on adults for their care. For the first 2 to 3 weeks newborns stay primarily with the mother. After three weeks the father will carry the young for much of the day, bringing them to their mother every 2 to 3 hours for feeding. The offspring are weaned after 2 to 3 months but usually don't leave the family group until they reach sexual maturity, at 16 to 24 months. (Nowak 1999)

  • Parental Investment
  • precocial
  • pre-fertilization
    • provisioning
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-hatching/birth
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • male
      • female
  • pre-independence
    • protecting
      • male
      • female
  • post-independence association with parents
  • extended period of juvenile learning


Leontopithecus chrysopygus in the wild will live for approximately ten years. In captivity the longest lived golden-rumped lion tamarin lived for 28 years. (Nowak 1999)

  • Average lifespan
    Status: wild
    10 years
  • Range lifespan
    Status: captivity
    28 (high) years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    17.9 years


L. chrysopygus individuals are social animals. All of their time is spent within the family group. These family groups consist of on breeding pair and two or three years of their progeny. After male offspring reach sexual maturity they will generally leave the family group to go and find a mate. Sometimes this mate finding will occur when several family groups come together in a large gathering. In these gatherings young males and young females are able to find mates to start their own family group. Within each individual family group dominance is shared by both the primary male and primary female. The primary male and female are strongly territorial and will fight off outsiders. Because of this, during the large gatherings the mature males and females will keep to themselves. The territories of the family groups is typically 75 to 125 acres, but with the lack of viable habitat this territory size has gone down and family groups often have overlapping territories.

Golden-rumped lion tamarins are mainly active during the day.

(Beacham 1998; Wolters 1990)

Communication and Perception

Food Habits

Leontopithecus chrysopygus eats mainly insects and fruits. When they are able to catch them, L. chrysopygus will eat small lizards, small birds, bird eggs, and small vertebrates. (Massicot 2001)

  • Animal Foods
  • birds
  • reptiles
  • eggs
  • insects
  • Plant Foods
  • fruit


The main predators of golden-rumped lion tamarins are small cats, birds of prey, and snakes. They avoid predation by being part of a social organization, so that more individuals are alert to potential dangers and will give warning signals to other members of their troupe. (Wolters 1990)

Ecosystem Roles

Golden-rumped lion tamarins may be important as seed dispersers in the ecosystems in which they live.

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

L. chrysopygus is periodically captured and sold in Brazil as pets, though this has a negative impact on this imperiled species. The charismatic quality of lion tamarins makes them excellent candidates for ecotourism activities. (Beacham 1998)

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no negative effects of lion tamarins on humans.

Conservation Status

L. chrysopygus is listed as one of the world's rarest mammals. It is estimated that only about 700 are still living in both the wild and captivity. (Massicot 2001)


Douglas Gray (author), Humboldt State University, Brian Arbogast (editor), Humboldt State University.



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.


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


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.


an animal that mainly eats all kinds of things, including plants and animals

pet trade

the business of buying and selling animals for people to keep in their homes as pets.


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


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 term is used in the 1994 IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals to refer collectively to species categorized as Endangered (E), Vulnerable (V), Rare (R), Indeterminate (I), or Insufficiently Known (K) and in the 1996 IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals to refer collectively to species categorized as Critically Endangered (CR), Endangered (EN), or Vulnerable (VU).


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

young precocial

young are relatively well-developed when born


Beacham, W., K. Beetz. 1998. Golden-rumped Lion Tamarin (Leontopithecus chrysopygus). Pp. 375-377 in Beacham's Guide to International Endangered Species, Vol. 1. Osprey, FL: Beacham Publishing Corp.

Flannery, S. 2000. "Golden-rumped Lion Tamarin (Leontopithecus chrysopygus)" (On-line). Accessed November 14, 2001 at http://www.primate.wisc.edu/pin/factsheets/leontopithecus_chrysopygus.html.

Massicot, P. 2001. "Animal Info - Golden-rumped Lion Tamarin" (On-line). Accessed November 14, 2001 at http://www.animalinfo.org/species/primate/leonchrp.htm.

Nowak, R. 1999. Walker's Mammals of the World. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

Wolters, J., K. Immelmann. 1990. Marmosets and Tamarins. Pp. 183-201 in S Parker, ed. Grzimek's Encyclopedia of Mammals, Vol. 2. New York: McGraw Hill.