Cotton-top Tamarin

Saguinus oedipus

mammal mammal

Cotton-top Tamarin
Image: Tom Brakefield
Source: Corbis

Type: mammal

Cotton-top Tamarin Cotton-top Tamarin
Image: Tom Brakefield
Source: Corbis

Conservation Status

Secure Vulnerable Endangered Extinct  ]

Cotton-top Tamarins live in an area of intensive colonisation and forest loss. 75 per cent of their original habitat has been cleared for agriculture and pasture. Their remaining stronghold is the Paramillo National Natural Park, along with some small, isolated forests. Their tiny distribution puts them at great risk of extinction.



Cotton-top Tamarins are omnivores.

They feed on fruits, flowers, nectar, plant sap, frogs, snails, lizards, spiders and insects.


Cotton-top Tamarin relative size depiction as described below

Size relative to a sparrow and a cat.

260–390 g
body 19–21 cm,
tail 25–29 cm

Amazing Cotton-top Tamarins

These small, agile primates live in family groups of around 40 animals. During the day they travel between the forest understorey and canopy but mostly dwell in the lower vertical levels of the forest. At night they sleep hidden in dense foliage.

Like all tamarins they have magnificent, colourful fur coats. The common name refers to the white crest of long hair that flows from their foreheads to their shoulders.

Cotton-top Tamarins run or walk on all fours along horizontal tree-limbs, using their claw-like nails to grip. Their movements are quick and nimble. Unlike some monkeys, they do not have opposable thumbs and their tails are not prehensile.

Newborns cling tightly to the bodies of their parents with their hands and feet. Both parents care for the young; the father carries the young but transfers them to the mother at feeding time.

When alarmed or excited, Cotton-top Tamarins raise the hair on the top of their heads and stand up tall to make themselves look bigger. They are extremely vigilant, constantly scanning the forest for potential predators. Their main predators include birds of prey, native cats and snakes. When the group rests during the day, one group member stays alert and makes warning noises if it senses danger.

Did You Know?

Cotton-top Tamarins

  • have specialised sharp teeth for eating insects
  • use their magnificent coats for territorial displays
  • are usually born in pairs of non-identical twins


Cotton-top Tamarin distribution map

Cotton-top Tamarins are found in north-western Colombia. They inhabit tropical rainforest edges and secondary forests.


Other animals from the Neotropic

Chestnut-mandibled ToucanGorgeted WoodstarJaguarNine-banded Armadillo