Reproduction in captive lion tamarins (Leontopithecus): Seasonality, infant survival, and sex ratios

Jeffrey A. French, Alcides Pissinatti, Adelmar F. Coimbra-Filho

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Diversity in reproductive and social systems characterizes the primate family Callitrichidae. This paper contributes to our appreciation of this diversity by presenting the first detailed comparative analysis of captive breeding in three species of lion tamarins (Leontopithecus chrysomelas, L. chrysopygus, and L. rosalia) housed at the Centro de Primatologia do Rio de Janeiro. The annual pattern of reproduction in all three species of Leontopithecus was markedly seasonal, with births occurring during the spring, summer, and fall months from August through March. While modal number of litters produced per female per year was 1, approximately 20% of breeding females produced two litters per year. The onset of breeding activity in years when two litters are produced was significantly earlier than in years when only one litter was produced. The cumulative number of offspring surviving to 3 months of age did not differ between years with one vs. two breeding attempts. Like other callitrichids, postnatal mortality was highest during the first week of life, and there were pronounced species differences in offspring survival through 1 year, with significantly lower survivorship in L. chrysomelas. Infant survivorship was affected by a number of experiential factors. Survivorship up to 30 days of life was higher in groups in which the breeding female had previous experience with infants as a nonbreeding helper than in groups in which the female lacked previous helping experience. Likewise, survivorship to 30 days of life was higher for infants born to multiparous females than for infants born to primiparous females. When parity and previous helping experience were analyzed concurrently, the lowest survivorship was associated with offspring produced by inexperienced primiparous females. Genus-wide, there was no significant departure from a 50:50 sex ratio at any point during the first year of life, nor was there evidence for differential mortality for male and female infants. However, L. chrysopygus produced significantly more male infants at birth (65:44) and had male-biased litters (approximately 60% males) throughout the first year of life, while L. chrysomelas showed a nonsignificant tendency toward female-biased litters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)17-33
Number of pages17
JournalAmerican Journal of Primatology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1996

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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