Marmosets are tiny primates that originally were found in South American rainforest canopies. More than a dozen marmoset species exist in the wild, with the common marmoset featured here at Lake Tobias Wildlife Park. A type of monkey, marmosets are 7-8 inches tall on average when mature and weigh 8-9 ounces. While infants are born with smooth brown and yellow coats, the mature animal has white ear tufts and a banded tail.
Diet of the Marmoset: Like most primates, marmosets have a complex omnivorous diet based on the foods available in nature. Fruits and insects are dietary staples for much of the year. They will dine on flowers and fungi when available, as well as seeds and nectar. They receive valuable proteins from frogs, lizards, snails and other small prey.
The hands of the marmoset are less evolved than other monkeys, with sharp claws and no opposable thumb. However, the primate uses these sharp claws to feed on the trees in which they live naturally. Because the rainforest has little fruit the first four months of the year, the marmoset depends on tree exudates to compensate.
The gum, latex, resin and sap found in the trees contains rich nutrients to ensure their survival during these lean months. The marmoset is able to grip the trees tightly while chewing a small hole in the side. The resulting exudate is then licked up by the animal.
A Day in the Life: Marmosets are active social creatures who enjoy foraging during daylight hours. A group of them is known as a troop, comprising up to 15 animals in the wild. They are territorial when confronted with other groups, but playful when happy and safe.
In the wild, most marmoset couples appear to be monogamous. Younger ones will often not sexually mature until they are away from their family group. Some cases of polygamy and polyandry have been noted, though the reasons for these instances remains unclear.
The male plays an important role in the life of the offspring after the first two weeks. During that time, the infants stay on the mother’s back. However, once they begin wandering away from her, the father and younger members of the community begin to assume responsibilities in caring for the smallest members of the troop.
They communicate with each other through visual and vocal cues. Adults have scent glands on their anogenital and chest regions that can be used to mark territory and relay status.