Black-tufted Marmoset

The black-tufted marmoset (Callithrix (Callithrix) penicillata), also known as the black-penciled marmoset, is a species of New World monkey. It lives primarily in the Neo-tropical gallery forests of the Brazilian Central Plateau. It ranges from Bahia to Sao Paulo, and as far inland as Goias. They are found between 14 and 17 degrees south of the equator. This marmoset typically resides in rainforests. It lives a life high in the trees, but below the canopy. They are only rarely spotted near the ground.

Physical description

Black tufts of hair around their ears characterize the black-tufted marmoset. It typically has some sparse white hairs on its face. It usually has a brown or black head. Its limbs and upper body are gray, as well as its abdomen. Its rump and underside are usually black. Its tail is ringed with black and white and is not holding, but is used for balance. It does not have an opposable thumb and its nails tend to have a claw-like appearance. The black-tufted marmoset reaches a size of 7.48 to 8.66 in (19 to 22 cm) and weighs up to 12.35 oz (350 g).


Diurnal and arboreal, the black-tufted marmoset has a lifestyle very similar to other marmosets. It typically lives in family groups of 2 to 14. The groups usually consist of a reproductive couple and their offspring. Twins are very common among this species. The males, as well as juvenile offspring, often assist the female in the raising of the young.

The black-tufted marmoset lives in small family groups. It is believed that they share their food source, sap trees, with other marmoset groups. Scent marking does occur within these groups, but it is believed that the marking is to deter other species rather than other black-tufted marmoset groups. Other groups typically ignore these markings. They also appear to be migratory, often moving in relation to the wet or dry seasons. The extent of their migration is unknown.

Food and predation

The black-tufted marmoset diet consists primarily of tree sap that it gets by nibbling the bark with its long lower incisors. In periods of drought, it will also include fruit and insects in its diet. In periods of serious drought it has also been known to eat small arthropods, mollusks, bird eggs, and small vertebrates.

Large birds of prey are the greatest threat to the black-tufted marmoset. Snakes and wild cats also pose a danger to them. Predator-specific vocalizations and visual scanning are its only anti-predation techniques.


The Black-tufted Marmoset is monogamous and lives in family groups. It reproduces twice a year, producing 1 to 4 offspring. They produce most often just twins. Its gestation period is 150 days and offspring are weaned after 8 weeks. Both parents as well as older juveniles help to raise the young. The offspring are extremely dependent on their parents. They are sexually mature at 18 months and typically do not mate until much later. They stay with their family group until they do.