Cotton Top Tamarin

Cotton Top Tamarin is easily recognizable from the white fur on top of their head, which looks like cotton. Also referred as “Cotton Headed Tamarin” and “Crested Tamarin,” it is a New World monkey and one of the smallest primate species.

Scientific Classification

S. oedipus

Table Of Content

Scientific Classification

S. oedipus

Sadly, a significant number of this tamarin was traded and used for biomedical research resulting in depletion in their population.

Cotton Top Tamarin


Height: 8.2–10.2 in (20.8–25.9 cm)

Weight: 15.2 oz (432 g )

Head and Face:  They have a white clump of hair on their head, extending up to the shoulder.

Body and Coloration:  These monkeys are no bigger than the squirrel in terms of size.

They have a white belly, chest, and legs alongside a black and brown back and tail.

 Tail: Their tail, 13–16 in (33–41 cm) in length, is long and hanging.

Range and Distribution

They inhabit the northwest part of Colombia.


They can survive anywhere from humid to dry tropical forests.

Cotton Top Tamarin Natural Habitat
Cotton Top Tamarin Monkey


This tamarin lives for 13 years on average. Some may survive up to 25 years.


It is omnivorous, feeding on fruits, nectar, flowers, lizards, spiders, insects, frogs, and snails.

Cotton Top Tamarin Diet
Cotton Top Tamarin Picture


  • This species lives in troops of two to nine individuals where several other subordinates support only one dominant pair.
  • They can be territorial and aggressive towards outsiders.
  • The troop generally works together to find food and protect themselves.
  • This species is believed to have its language, complete with grammar – communicated through around 38 different calls, including chirps, whistles, and trills. In this way, they may express their fear, curiosity, or anxiety.
  • The infants cannot accurately replicate all the calls listed above, learning them slowly throughout their lives.


The main predatory threats to the Cotton Top Tamarin are cats, snakes, and different birds of prey.


Cotton Top Tamarin Baby
Cotton Headed Tamarin

The Cotton Top Tamarin has very sharp, pointed claws amongst primates. It uses them to cling to trees and jump between branches with ease. Its four legs are identical in size, which facilitates easy locomotion throughout the upper and lower regions of the forest.

Mating and Reproduction

The only breeding pair of the troop is the central pair, and the subordinates help raise their offspring. To prevent the other females in the troop from mating, the dominant female releases a specific type of pheromone, preventing them from breeding.

Life Cycle

Usually, twins are born at a time, although sometimes triplets are born. The gestation period is around 166 days. Males will help with child-rearing, supported by other subordinate members. The babies become independent at five months and reach sexual maturity at 18 months for females and 24 months for males.

Conservation Status

The IUCN lists the species as “CR” or “Critically Endangered.” The Cotton Top Tamarin population is on the decline, with only 6000 individuals left in the wild, 2000 of which are adults.


Habitat Loss – This is primarily due to deforestation caused by farming and plantations..

Illegal Pet Trade – They were used in research and are still favored as a pet, leading to an international ban on trade.

Disease – The Cotton Top tamarin was susceptible to colitis and the Epstein Barr virus, exposed during biomedical research.

Several efforts have been made to conserve these primates, most notably “Proyecto Titi,” which started in 1985 through research, field study, and community programs.

Cotton Top Tamarin Size
Images of Cotton Top Tamarin

Interesting Facts

  • In January 2015, three Cotton-top tamarins were left outside overnight at low temperatures by a caretaker at the Alexandria Zoological Park. Two of them died, but one survived.
  • As these tamarins eat a wide variety of fruit, they are essential seed dispensers.

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