Cotton-Top Tamarin

Saguinus oedipus

Cotton-top tamarins are named for the shock of white hair encircling their heads, a look reminiscent of Albert Einstein. They have white chests and bellies, while their backs and tails are covered in long black and brown fur. They have claw-like nails, which are critical to jumping from tree to tree in their forest habitat.

Distribution and habitat

The cotton-top tamarin is restricted to a small area of northwest Colombia, between the Cauca and Magdalena Rivers to the South and East, the Atlantic coast to the North, and the Atrato River to the West. Historically, the entirety of this area was suitable for the cotton-top tamarin, but due to habitat loss through deforestation, it survives in fragmented parks and reserves. The cotton-top tamarin is found in both primary and secondary forests, from humid tropical forests in the south of its range to tropical dry forests in the north.


They eat fruits, flowers, nectar, plant exudates (gums, saps, latex) and animal prey (including frogs, snails, lizards, spiders and insects).


The cotton-top tamarin is a highly social primate that typically lives in groups of two to nine individuals but may reach up to thirteen members. These small familial groups tend to fluctuate in size and in composition of individuals and a clear dominance hierarchy is always present within the party. At the head of the group is the breeding pair. The male and female in this pair are typically in a monogamous reproductive relationship, and together serve as the group’s dominant leaders. The rest of the group will assist in the care of the leader’s offspring.

Conservation status

ENDANGERED (IUCN Red List of Threatened Species).



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