The diet of the emperor tamarin is opportunistic and comprises a wide variety of food sources, including fruits, flowers, nectar, frogs, snails, insects and even small birds. It also feeds on sap and gum (1) (5) (6), especially in the late dry season and the early wet season (6). The emperor tamarin does not gnaw holes in trees itself to obtain sap, but will instead exploit wounds in trees or hijack previously existing holes made by marmosets to feed on the sap that is exuded (5).
The emperor tamarin lives in social groups of around 4 to 20 individuals, consisting of a single breeding pair, up to several generations of their offspring, and unrelated migratory adults. Tamarins and marmosets are thought to exhibit a polyandrous mating system, in which a single dominant female will mate with several different males during the breeding season. The single dominant female will suppress the reproductive abilities of other females in the group by exhibiting dominant behaviour, and will release pheromones during scent marking which also suppress breeding (5).
The gestation period of the emperor tamarin is around 140 to 145 days (6), after which the dominant female will give birth to twins. At birth, young tamarins weigh a remarkable 25 percent of the female’s body weight. In all tamarin and marmoset species, the infants are initially carried until they are around 70 days old, after which they become independent and are able to catch insects and feed themselves. All members of the group help to carry the young emperor tamarins. The juveniles reach sexual maturity at 12 to 18 months old, and adult size is reached at about 2 years of age (5).