Brazilian bare-faced tamarin (Saguinus bicolor)

Also known as: Pied bare-faced tamarin, pied tamarin
Spanish: Sagüi-de Duas-cores
GenusSaguinus (1)
SizeHead-body length: 20.8 - 28.3 cm (2)
Tail length: 33.5 - 42.0 cm (2)
Male weight: 428 g (2)

Classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1) and listed on Appendix I of CITES (3).

One of the most endangered primates in the Amazon (1), the Brazilian bared-faced tamarin has thick fur, which is white on the upper half and front limbs, and brown on the lower half, legs and tail. Only the black head is devoid of fur, hence the name ‘bare-faced’ (4) (5). Tamarins are distinguished from other New World monkeys by their small size and modified claws on all the digits except the big toe. They also have two, as opposed to three, molar teeth in each jaw (6).

Found in the Brazilian state of Amazonas, the range of the Brazlian bare-faced tamarin extends approximately 45 kilometres north and 100 kilometres east of Manaus, as well as in the city itself (1).

The Brazilian bare-faced tamarin inhabits the canopy of lowland forest and is successful in secondary forest (such as that found in the city of Manaus) (1).  

The Brazilian bare-faced tamarin lives in groups of 4 to 15 individuals (1). Within each group, only the alpha female will give birth each year to, usually, twins (6), after a gestation period of about 160 days (7). Other females within the group do not engage in sexual activity and ovulation may in fact be suppressed by chemicals given off by the alpha female (6). Group care of the young is an important feature of tamarins, with the subordinate individuals providing a significant amount of care to the young (6).

The diet of the Brazilian bare-faced tamarin consists of fruit, flowers, nectar, tree exudates and small animal prey such as insects, lizards and other small vertebrates (8). In the wild, tamarins will spend about 60 percent of the day foraging for food (6), moving on all fours through the trees and leaping between branches (9).

Tamarins are known to communicate through scent marking, which appears to be important in both social and sexual behaviour. In captivity they will increase scent marking when introduced to unfamiliar animals (6).

The Brazilian bare-faced tamarin is thought to be one of the most endangered Amazonian primates due to its small, fragmented range and the continuing loss of its habitat (1). Its range is decreasing as forests are converted for agriculture, cattle ranching, and as urban areas expand. It is also sometimes captured for the pet trade (1).

This Endangered primate is thankfully receiving conservation attention from the Committee for the Conservation and Management of Amazonian Primates (1) and also from the Project for Conservation and Sustainable Use of Brazilian Biological Diversity (PROBIO), which includes a management plan for the Brazilian bare-faced tamarin (10). This species also occurs in a number of protected reserves in and around Manaus, and has been bred in captivity; in 2004 there were 117 Brazilian bare-faced tamarins in captivity across 19 institutions (1). Whilst this captive breeding is important, it should not replace the efforts being made to keep this species thriving in the wild.

To learn about conservation efforts in Brazil see:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:

  1. IUCN Red List (March, 2010)
  2. Smith, R.J. and Jungers, W.L. (1997) Body mass in comparative primatology. Journal of Human Evolution, 32: 523–559.
  3. CITES (March, 2010)
  4. Nowak, R.M. (1999) Walker's Mammals of the World. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland.
  5. Eisenberg, J.F. and Redford, K.H. (1999) Mammals of the Neotropics. Volume 3: The Central Neotropics. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
  6. French, J.A. and Fite, J.E. (2005) Marmosets and Callitrichids. Callitrichid Research Center, University of Nebraska at Omaha.
  7. Heistermann, M., Pröve, E. and Wolters, H.J. and Mika, G. (1987) Urinary oestrogen and progesterone excretion before and during pregnancy in a pied bare-face tamarin (Saguinus bicolor bicolor). Journal of Reproduction and Fertility, 80: 635-640.
  8. Egler, S.G. (1992) Feeding ecology of Saguinus bicolor bicolor (Callitrichidae: Primates) in a relict forest in Manaus, Brazilian Amazonia. Folia Primatologica, 59: 61-76.
  9. The Primata (November, 2009)
  10. Costa, L.P., Leite, Y.R., Mendes, S.L. and Ditchfield, A.D. (2005) Mammal conservation in Brazil. Conservation Biology, 19(3): 672.