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Research on Behavior, Ecology and Habitat

The Golden Lion Tamarin Conservation Program has always depended on research to provide the foundation for its goals and conservation strategies. Research on golden lion tamarins and other species in and around the areas inhabited by tamarins is a fundamental objective of the program. These research programs are designed to:

  • Increase our understanding of how to conserve GLTs and their habitat
  • Expand our basic knowledge of the biology, ecology and behavior of the species; and
  • Provide opportunities to train future conservation biologist.

Here we present a brief summary of some of the research programs currently underway in Brazil.
Scroll down to explore the role of research in the conservation of GLTs.

Ecology, Behavior and Conservation of Golden Lion Tamarins in Poço das Antas Reserve

James M. Dietz (Univ. of Maryland) and Andrew J. Baker (Philadelphia Zoo)
Field coordinator: Otávio José Narciso (Golden Lion Tamarin Association)

2000 marked the 17th year of continuous monitoring of the behavior and ecology of golden lion tamarins in Poço das Antas Reserve. This research has been supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) since 1987. Recent Projects include:

Inbreeding and inbreeding depression
We found that at least 10% of all tamarin offspring born in Poço das Antas Reserve were inbred at some level.

Molecular genetic analysis of paternity
Observational data on mating behavior in this population suggest that the primary breeding system for golden lion tamarins is monogamy, even for groups containing more than one adult male.

Fecal hormone analysis
Analysing over 900 fecal samples from adult female tamarins show that the regulation of reproduction by female tamarins is sensitive to their social status, reproductive value and relatedness to breeding males (French et al., in press).

Sources of variability in female reproductive success
We examined the effects of several variables on the number of live births per breeding season in wild golden lion tamarins and the condition of the female was the only variable to predict successfully the number of live-born infants.

Tamarin energy budgets
We are interested in explaining why different individuals have different energy budgets.

Intense predation in Poço das Antas
Over the last five years, predation by an unknown predator has caused significant mortality in the Poço das Antas Reserve.

Vocal communication and ontogeny of foraging in golden lion tamarins

Carlos Ruiz-Miranda and Lisa G. Rapaport (University of New Mexico)

Ontogeny of Foraging in Golden Lion Tamarins
This study began in October 1999 and is being funded by a five-year National Institute of Mental Health grant to Lisa Rapaport, through the University of New Mexico Anthropology Department. We are interested in the alternative behavioral strategies used by offspring to obtain resources, the conflicts between caregivers and offspring, and the relationship between trial and error versus social learning in regard to food acquisition and preferences in young tamarins. So far our studies show that infants do appear to monitor adult foraging activities. As our study subjects entered the second half of their first year, they quickly traveled over ever greater distances to commandeer food and foraging sites from older group members. We look forward to converting impressions into quantitative analysis as the sample size increases.

Vocal communication and ontogeny
Analyses of vocal repertoire recordings from 1995 to 1997

Ontogeny of play behavior
M.S. Thesis of Claudia R. Oliveira (M.S. USP-Ribeirão Preto). Wild and reintroduced tamarins do not show differences in the patterns of their play behavior suggesting that captivity has little impact on this behavior.

Foraging behavior of captive born tamarins and their offsprings born in the wild
Guilherme V. Faria (IC-UENF), Tara Stoinski (U. of Georgia), Ben Beck (NZP-SI). There looks like there are significant differences in the success of micro-manipulation foraging (searching for food with their hands) between captivity born animals (NC), first-generation offspring born in the wild (G1), and later generation wild-borns (G2). The G2 animals are successful on average every four micro-manipulation events, while the NC and G1 need 12 bouts of micro-manipulation to be successful.

Chemical analysis of tamarin offspring diet
Eleonora Erbesdobler (UENF, Ph.D. student), Paula Procópio de Oliveira (Associação Mico-Leão-Dourado); Alcides Pissinatti (CPRJ), Lisa Rapaport (UNM).

Distribution of T. cruzi in the area of the golden lion tamarin population
Collaboration with Cristiane V. Lisboa (UENF, Doutorado), Dra. Ana Jansen (FIOCRUZ), e James Dietz (University of Maryland).

Genetic Structure of GLT Population

Adriana D. Grativol (UENF)

This Project was initiated in 1999, as part of Ph.D. thesis of Adriana Grativol in Biociências and Biotecnologia of the UENF, under the advise of Dr. Fernando Fernandez. The purpose of this Project is to analyze and compare genetic samples of the wild and captivity populations with samples from historic populations collected from museum skins.

Geographic Information System (GIS) for the GLT Area

Ezequiel Moraes dos Santos (Golden Lion Tamarin Association)

The GIS laboratory has contributed to several important conservation efforts both in the Poco das Antas Researve and in thelocal community. These include a map of the Poço das Antas Reserve for use by IBAMA to develope management and reserve protection strategies and maps to help establishment of two private reserves.

Behavioral differences between captive-born, reintroduced golden lion tamarins

Tara Stoinski (University Georgia)
Ben Beck (Smithsonian National Zoo)

This Project compared the behavior of captive-born, reintroduced and wild-born tamarins. We knew that tamarins born in the wild had survival rates as high as natural wild tamarins so we wanted to find out why. Among the findings is that the wild-born offspring use thin flexible substrates more than the zoo-born reintroduced animals, they fall less, and show better foraging efficiency (although the zoo-borns that survive eventually "catch up" on foraging).

Lion Tamarin Rescue and Translocation Techniques

Paula Procópio de Oliveira and Maria Cecília Martins Kierulff
Field Coordinator:
Sandro Vidal da Rocha

Monitoring the translocation animals and their descendents
Eleven groups (90 tamarins) have been monitored in the Fazenda Uniao Reserve for the last 7 years. Data are being collected on the behavior, ecology and habitat use of these groups.

Phenology Research
This study examines the diversity and patters of flowering and fruiting trees, a source of food for the tamarins, in the translocation habitat.

Translocation Database
Vanessa Puerta Veruli is organizing the database of all the research developed in the Translocation Program since 1997.

GLTs as seed dispersers
Marina Janzantti Lapenta has finished the data collection for her master thesis in the Ecology Program, USP, SP, on the GLT as a seed disperser. Over a two year period, the translocated GLTs used 66 fruit species and ingested seeds of 38 of these.