Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Night on Bald Mountain

My fiancée has had a deep-seated dislike of non-human primates for a long time. So when she told me to look at this ugly monkey she saw on the ARKive front page, I was doubtful of its ugliness. I was wrong. It looks like the gremlins from, well, Gremlins (Use this picture for comparison).

Image by Dominic Wormell

The Brazilian Bare-Faced Tamarin, or Pied Tamarin (Saguinus bicolor), is unsurprisingly found in the Amazon basin in Brazil. Like most tamarins, it spends its time avoiding predators and eating fruits, tree sap, and small animals. They live in small groups, with between four and fifteen individuals.

Their group structure is a reverse harem—the alpha female gets to mate with whatever male she likes. Most tamarins give birth to twins, and the Pied Tamarin is no different. Dad takes care of most of the child rearing (other than nursing, of course), with the other subordinates helping out. The whole group sleeps in one big pile, which I’m sure would be adorable if their faces didn’t look like gargoyles’.

There is one main unanswered question I have about the Bare-Faced Tamarin—why is it bare-faced? What purpose does a hairless face serve? It’s not like these guys bury their head in carcasses, like storks and vultures. My guess, which is only a guess, is that it may have something to do with keeping their head free of parasites. The problem with this theory is that they groom each other, meaning that other members of their group should be able to help with the nit picking.

As far as their status is concerned, the Pied Tamarin isn’t doing so well. They are considered one of the most endangered Amazonian primates due to their small, fragmented range coupled with the constant rainforest destruction we’ve all been hearing about for the last decade. Primate conservation programs, as well as captive breeding programs are working on keeping this goblin-faced monkey around.


Christine Hart said...

I've recently cultivated a deep-seated dislike of non-human primates myself after being attacked by Vervet Monkeys in Kenya. Vicious little devils - I've still got scars! Just goes to show that cute can be so very misleading ;)

Alex Albert said...

I was also think like you, thanks for clarify my doubts!! :)

Alex Albert
Endangered animals