Black-faced Lion Tamarin (Leontopithecus caissara)

The black-faced lion tamarin has nonopposable thumbs and the nails are claw-like except for the first digit on each toe. This species has long digits used in the forging small insects and vertebrates (Garber, 1992). The back of this species is golden in color (Kinzey, 1997). The mane, face, feet, forearms, and tail all have black colored hair (Lorini and Persson, 1990). The average body mass for an adult is 675 grams (Valladares-Padua and Prado, 1996).

The black-faced lion tamarin is found in the Atlantic coastal forests of Eastern Brazil (Rylands et al., 1993). This species lives in the coastal lowlands in an area considered transitional tropical to subtropical (Rylands, 1993).

The black-faced lion tamarin is frugivorous, feeding on soft, sweet fruits, but will also eat flowers, nectar, insects, and small invertebrates (Kleiman et al., 1988). Of the fruits found to be eaten are: Psidium cattleianum, Syagrus romanzoffiana, Tapirira guianensis, Vitex polygama (Valladares-Padua and Prado, 1996). This species sleeps in tree holes during the night, and the dependence on tree holes might be an ecological constraint for the black-faced lion tamarin (Rylands, 1993). This species is arboreal and diurnal. This species is more active in the early morning and late afternoon (Valladares-Padua and Prado, 1996).

The black-faced lion tamarin moves quadrupedally through the main canopy of the forest (Fleagle, 1988). When climbing down tree trunks, the black-faced lion tamarin will either be in head down or tail down posture (Kleiman et al., 1988).

Food sharing is more important in this genera than other callitrichids, and is important in maintaining the social structure (Brown and Mack, 1978). Primarily the black-faced lion tamarin has a monogamous mating system, but polygyny and polyandry has also been seen in the wild (Rylands, 1993). Polgyny may occur in populations where there is overcrowding and a low chance of dispersal (Dietz and Baker, 1991). Polyandry may come about when there are more than one adult male in a group and a need to defend the reproductive female, or the female may want to increase the number of male helpers by confusing paternity (Rylands, 1989).

long call: The function of this call of the black-faced lion tamarin is to maintain pair bonds and to signify a groupís presence in their territory (Kinzey, 1997).

suprapubic marking: This is when an individual presses the suprapubic pad against a substrate and deposits secretions by pulling itself along or by pushing itself with its feet (Epple et al., 1993).

piloerection: This is where the hair of the black-faced lion tamarin stands on end and functions as an aggressive signal (Kinzey, 1997).


The black-faced lion tamarin most often gives birth to twins, with triplets and quadruplets having been reported (Kinzey, 1997). This species has a birth peak from September to March (Valladares-Padua and Prado, 1996).

Brown, K. and Mack, D.S. 1978. Food Sharing Among Captive Leontopithecus rosalia. Folia Primatologica. Vol.29, 268-290.

Dietz, J.M. and Baker, A.J. 1991. O Modelo Limiar de Poliginia e Sucesso Reprodutivo em Leontopithecus rosalia (Primates: Callitrichidae). Pare presented at the XVIII Congresso Brasileiro de Zoologia, Universidade Federal da Bahia, Salvador, 26 February to 1st March 1991.

Epple, G., Belcher, A.M., Kuderling, I., Zeller, U., Scolnick, L., Greenfield, K.L., Smith III, A.B. 1993. Making Sense Out of Scents: Species Differences in Scent Glands, Scent-marking Behaviour, and Scent-mark Composition in the Callitrichdae. in Marmosets and Tamarins: Systematics, Behaviour, and Ecology. ed. Anthony B. Rylands, Oxford University Press.

Fleagle, J.G. 1998. Primate Adaptation and Evolution. Academic Press.

Garber, P.A. 1992. Vertical Clinging, Small Body Size, and the Evolution of Feeding Adaptations in the Callitrichinae. American Journal of Physical Anthropology. Vol.88, 469-482.

Kinzey, W.G. 1997. Leontopithecus. in New World Primates: Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior. ed. Warren G. Kinzey, Aldine de Gruyter, New York.

Kleiman, D.G., Hoage, R.J., and Green, K.M. 1988. The Lion Tamarins, Genus Leontopithecus. in R.A. Mittermeier, A.B. Rylands, A.F. Coimbra-Filho, and G.A.B. da Fonseca (eds), Ecology and Behavior of Neotropical Primates, Vol. 2. Washington DC: World Wildlife Fund.

Lorini, M.L. and Persson, V.G. 1990. Nova Especie de Leontopithecus Lesson, 1840, do Sul do Brasil (Primates, Callitrichidae). Bol. Mus. Nac., Nova Serie, Zoologia, Rio de Janeiro, (338), 1-14.

Rylands, A.B. 1989. Evolucao do Sistema de Acasalamento em Callitrichidae. In Etologia de Animais e de Homens. ed C. Ades. Pp. 87-108. Edicon, University of Sao Paulo Press, Sao Paulo.

Rylands, A.B. 1993. The Ecology of the Lion Tamarins, Leontopithecus: Some Intrageneric Differences and Comparisons with Other Callitrichids. in Marmosets and Tamarins: Systematics, Behaviour, and Ecology. ed. Anthony B. Rylands, Oxford University Press.

Rylands, A.B., Coimbra-Filho, A.F., and Mittermeier, R.A. 1993. Systematics, Geographic Distribution, and Some Notes on the Conservation Status of the Callitrichidae. In Marmosets and Tamarins: Systematics, Behaviour, and Ecology. Oxford University Press.

Valladares-Padua, C. and Prado, F. 1996. Notes on the Natural History of the Black-faced Lion Tamarin Leontopithecus caissara. Dodo, Jersey Wildlife Preservation Trust. Vol. 32, 123-125.

Last Updated: October 9, 2003.
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