Pygmy Marmoset Parental Care & Developmental Stages


To ensure that as many of the offspring of the dominant female as possible make it through their first year of life, all of the members of the family will take turns helping to raise the dominant female’s young. This will make a significant contribution to the survivability of wild pygmy marmosets, which currently have a survivability rate of 67 percent during the first six months of their lives. The first two months of a pygmy marmoset’s life are marked by an astounding mortality rate of nearly 80 percent, making it one of the most perilous times of their lives. The first two weeks of an infant’s life are spent with the infant being carried around constantly, but after that point, the infant is on their own. Parents will leave their two-week-old infants in predetermined locations that are relatively safe and will continue to care for them there for extended periods of time while the adults forage in the surrounding area. Pygmy marmosets are the only species that exhibit this peculiar behavior. The primary feeding tree for the group’s princiaps or another large tree within the group’s home range are two of the common areas frequented by the young Pygmy Marmosets. Because of the larger size of the infants, this method is probably used. In addition to lowering the cost of caring for infants, it will also help protect them from predators like birds.

Babies typically begin to move around on their own between the ages of two and five months, and by the end of the third month, they are weaned from their mothers’ milk. Even though they won’t be able to find food for themselves until they are juveniles, pygmy marmosets start weaning as early as the age of eight weeks. Juvenile Pygmy Marmosets are defined as having six to twelve months of age, which is also the time when the dominant female is most likely to have another litter of young. Pygmy marmosets will enter the sub adult age between the ages of twelve and eighteen months, at which point the only distinguishing physical characteristics between them and adults are the smaller sizes of their body and genitalia. Playing will take up a significant portion of their time during this time, and they will acquire important skills as a result of their participation in play.

How Does the Pygmy Marmoset Reproduction Work?

In pygmy marmoset groups, there is typically one dominant breeding female, and the other adults will remain in the group without breeding. This is similar to the situation in other primate species that engage in cooperative breeding. According to Darwin’s theory of natural selection, this is done so that the best genes can be preserved for future generations. It is expected that the sub-adults will remain within the household in order to assist in the childrearing process. There is only one dominant female in each group, which means that juveniles do not have the ability to reproduce within those groups. Female Pygmy Marmosets will reach sexual maturity between the ages of 15 and 17 months; however, if she is not the dominant female in the group, she will not reproduce due to the interactions of the dominant female with the other members of the group. In the event that the breeding female is no longer a part of the group, the oldest daughter of the breeding female will take over as the new dominant female. When an offspring of the sub-females gives birth in the wild, they are frequently the victims of neglect or even infanticide at the hands of other members of the group. The age of sexual maturity for males is estimated to be somewhere around 16 months.

Adult males are interested in mating with the dominant female throughout the entire year; however, breeding females are not receptive to adult males’ advances while they are pregnant or for three to six weeks after they have given birth. The dominant male will aggressively intervene between any males attempting to mate with the dominant female in order to establish his dominance over the other males and maintain his position as the dominant male. The dominant male’s courtship behaviors include approaching and following the female, strutting, tongue-flicking, sniffing and licking the female’s urine, scent marking using their glands, huddling, and grooming. Other courtship behaviors include huddling and grooming. If the female is interested, she will respond to these behaviors by presenting her genital organs to the male, raising her tail into an arch position, leaving a scent mark, huddling with other females, and grooming herself.

There are no distinct birthing seasons for Pygmy Marmosets; however, there are two birthing peaks throughout the year: one in the months of May and June, and another between the months of November and January. In the wild, females will typically have two litters a year and will typically give birth to a set of twins about seventy percent of the time. When animals are kept in captivity, there is a 76% chance of twin births, an 8% chance of triplet births, and a 16% chance of a single birth.

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