Social and reproductive conditions modulate urinary cortisol excretion in black tufted-ear marmosets (Callithrix kuhli)

Tessa E. Smith, Jeffrey A. French

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

60 Scopus citations


The links between psychosocial stress, social status, reproductive function, and urinary cortisol were assessed in social groups of black tufted-ear marmosets (Callithrix kuhli). Urinary cortisol excretion was monitored in cases of intrafamily conflict ('sibling fights') and in daughters in four distinct social contexts: in the family group, while housed singly or in same-sex pairs, and while paired with a male pairmate. Cortisol excretion was elevated in participants in intra-family conflict on the day of and the day following the conflict, relative to concentrations a week prior to or following the conflict. Daughters in natal family groups had concentrations of cortisol that did not differ from reproductively active adult females. This finding held for daughters who were either anovulatory or undergoing ovulatory cycles while in the natal family group. Natal family members and male pairmates exerted buffering effects on levels of activity in the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis (HPA) in female C. kuhli. Placing females in solitary housing led to significantly increased cortisol excretion. In the 2 months subsequent to pairing with a male partner, excreted cortisol concentrations in females declined significantly. Daughters removed from their natal family group and housed with a sister did not exhibit increased cortisol levels. These data reveal that activity in the (HPA) axis in marmosets is sensitive to psychosocial stressors, and that urinary cortisol can provide a useful quantitative measure of HPA reactivity. As in other callitrichids, delayed breeding in daughters and reproductive anomalies in C. kuhli appear to be mediated by mechanisms other than elevated HPA activity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)253-267
Number of pages15
JournalAmerican Journal of Primatology
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1997


  • Aggression
  • Callithrix kuhli
  • Dominance
  • Marmosets
  • Reproductive suppression
  • Stress
  • Urinary cortisol

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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

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