species/Leontopithecus rosalia


Golden lion tamarin
Golden lion tamarin

Please help keeping these websites open for everybody as long as possible

Leontopithecus rosalia, golden lion tamarin



Back to all primate species



Taxonomic lineage

cellular organisms - Eukaryota - Fungi/Metazoa group - Metazoa - Eumetazoa - Bilateria - Coelomata - Deuterostomia - Chordata - Craniata - Vertebrata - Gnathostomata - Teleostomi - Euteleostomi - Sarcopterygii - Tetrapoda - Amniota - Mammalia - Theria - Eutheria - Euarchontoglires - Primates - Haplorrhini - Simiiformes - Platyrrhini - Cebidae - Callitrichinae - Leontopithecus - Leontopithecus rosalia

Golden lion tamarin belongs to taxonomic group Platyrrhini (flat-nosed), New World monkeys; family Cebidae (from Greek "kebos" - monkey); subfamily Callitrichinae (marmosets and tamarins).

There are more than 125 species of extant New World monkeys (Primates: Platyrrhini) found in approximately 15 genera.

Back to top Nemose

Brief facts


Golden lion tamarins live in the heavily populated coastal region of Brazil, where less than two percent of the lowland, coastal rain forest remains. They occupy the closed canopy, often remaining 10-30 meters off the ground. They sleep in tree holes.


Golden lion tamarins are the largest of the callitrichids. Weights of captive adult males and females range 600 to 800g (ave. 710g), length of head and body ranges 200-336 mm (ave. 261 mm) and length of tail ranges 315 t0 400 mm (ave. 370 mm). There is no sexual dimorphism, although females may average slightly heavier than males.

Lion tamarins have long silky reddish, orange, golden, or buffy pelage. The face is almost bare and surrounded by mane that is derived from long hairs on the crown, cheeks, and throat and obscures the ears.

The hands and digits are extremely long, with a web partially uniting digits of the hands. These tamarins have claws, not flattened fingernails.

Conservation status

They are endangered because their habitat has been fragmented into small, unconnected areas, each area only capable of supporting a small number of groups. About 1,500 golden lion tamarins live in the wild, most in or near the Reserva B iologica de Poço das Antas in the state of Rio de Janeiro. About 450 live in zoos worldwide.


Lion tamarins feed mainly on fruits, insects and insects' larvae, snails and occasionally small vertebrates (lizards). Possibly bird eggs and hatchlings may also be eaten. Preferred fruits are soft, sweet and pulpy.


Lion tamarins appears to be restricted to primary lowland forest. Annual rainfall varies from 1100 to 2000 mm, with temperatures averaging 22°C. The wet season occurs from September to March. Lion tamarins is usually found between 3 to 10 m above the ground, in dense vines and epiphytes, which may provide protection from aerial predators. Tamarins tend to sleep in tree holes abandoned by other species. Entrances to these shelters have been found as low as 1.5 m from the ground although most are 11 to 15 m above the ground.


Social. Group size varies from two to eight, with three to four being most common, although feeding aggregations of 15 to 16 have been reported. Groups are often composed of a single reproductive pair, their offspring from one to two litters, and perhaps other relatives. Both males and older juveniles participate in parental care activities.

In the wild many (up to 40%) golden lion tamarin groups include two adult males, both of whom may copulate with the breeding female. Some groups (~11%) may contain two breeding females. It may happen when the breeding male was replaced by a foreign male who can breed not only with the original female, but also with her adult daughter, if one is present.

Golden lion tamarins are territorial which is somewhat unusual among primates living in small family groups. Territories are inherited by females. If the breeding male dies, the current breeding female remains in the territory and a new outside male joins her. But if the breeding female dies, the resident male will often abandon the territory, leaving it to the adult daughter, who herself is joined by a foreign male.

Adult females almost instantly attack outside females that try to join their groups. Females respond aggressivey only to new females, not to new males. Males do not join the female-female fights. The ability of a lone female to join a new group is limited. Most females that leave their birth group fail to find a new territory or gain entry into an existing group. In the wild, more than 70% die and disappear. A dominant female also will use aggression against her adult daughters to keep them from breeding if an unrelated male is not present.


The list of observed potential predators includes ocelots (Leopardus pardalis), margays (Leopardus wiedii), jaguarundis (Herpailurus yagouaroundi), tayras (Eira barbara), coatis (Nasua nasua), capuchin monkeys (Cebus spp.), large snakes, and large raptors.

Back to top Nemose

Leontopithecus rosalia, golden lion tamarin

Leontopithecus rosalia, golden lion tamarin

Leontopithecus rosalia, golden lion tamarin

Leontopithecus rosalia, golden lion tamarin

Back to top Nemose

Life history

Females typically mate with more than one male or two males.

The length of the ovarian cycle appears to be highly variable and estimated to be within 14 to 21 days range.

Golden lion tamarins normally breed twice per year, between September and March.

Tamarins are cooperative breeders: all group members (father and older offspring and other relatives) participate in parenting of newborns, which includes carrying, grooming and food provisioning (alloparenting). Callitrichid young are routinely provisioned until well after weaning by parents and helpers, which is in stark contrast to typical juvenile primates, who must acquire most of their food independently once they are weaned.

Back to top Nemose


Back to top Nemose