Interactions among paternal behavior, steroid hormones, and parental experience in male marmosets (Callithrix kuhlii)

Scott Nunes, Jeffrey E. Fite, Kimberly J. Patera, Jeffrey A. French

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

119 Scopus citations


Male black tufted-ear marmosets (Callithrix kuhlii) contribute to the rearing of their offspring. Here we evaluated predictions of hypotheses suggesting that (1) T and E2 influence infant-care behavior in male marmosets, (2) levels of T and E2 are modulated by paternal experience, and (3) paternal behavior and levels of T and E2 in male marmosets covary with stress. We observed the behavior of marmosets in their family groups following the birth of infants and evaluated urinary concentrations of T, E2, and the stress hormone cortisol (CORT) among fathers before and after the birth of young. Urinary levels of T, E2, and CORT were lower among males who carried infants at high rates than males who carried at low rates, and T and CORT levels were negatively correlated with carrying rates across all males. Males had significantly lower T levels while carrying the second compared to the first litter and slightly lower rates of infant-carrying, possibly due to assistance provided by offspring of the first litter. There were increases in CORT levels of fathers after the birth of the first litter, but decreases in CORT after the birth of the second. Our results suggest a relationship in C. kuhlii between paternal behavior, hormones, and paternal experience. Rates of infant-carrying appear to be linked to hormone levels, and hormone levels in turn are affected by experience caring for young. Our data also suggest that T, E2, and CORT have synergistic influences on infant-carrying behavior or alternatively that associations between T and E2 and rates of infant-carrying are influenced by stress or other glucocorticoid-related variables. Finally, we propose a hypothesis suggesting that experience-related changes in hormones reinforce the commitment of males to successful breeding partnerships.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)70-82
Number of pages13
JournalHormones and Behavior
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2001


  • Callitrichids
  • Cortisol
  • Estradiol
  • Experience
  • Marmosets
  • Paternal behavior
  • Steroids
  • Testosterone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology
  • Endocrine and Autonomic Systems
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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