Red-handed tamarins (Saguinus midas), also known as Midas tamarins, live in the forests of Suriname, Guyana, French Guiana, and north of the Amazon River in Brazil. They travel through the middle canopy of a variety of forest types, but also like savannahs and edge habitats near villages and cities—likely because they are rarely hunted. They are unique for monkeys in Suriname in that they have sharp rather than flat nails, which allows them to climb the bark of massive rainforest tree trunks.
Tamarins are small, weighing less than two pounds, with no significant difference in size or appearance between males and females. Somewhat rat-like when seen from the distance scurrying or jumping from branch to branch, up close their dark faces are small with curling ears that look more gremlin than rat. Their fur is long and black—except for the hands and feet which hue from red to yellow.
Behavior and Communication
Tamarins live in troops of up to 15 likely related monkeys. There is little competition within the group, although territorial disputes with other troops are common. They have specialized scent glands in the chest and genitalia to mark territory and convey information. They spend up to 60 percent of their life resting or sleeping, with the rest spent searching for food.
Given their small bodies, which use up a lot of energy, tamarins prefer sugary fruits, nectar, and plant gum and sap, as well as insects, frogs, spiders, and lizards.
Only the dominant female among a group will breed (often with multiple males) with the other females suppressing the instinct. Pregnancy is a little over five months and mothers typically give birth to twins, which is unique to marmosets and tamarins in New World monkeys. When not nursing, young tamarins travel with their father, although the entire troop helps care for infants. Adult tamarins reach sexual maturity by age two, at which point females are chased from their birth troop so as not to compete with the mother while males remain.
Natural predators are small cats, birds of prey, and snakes. Red-handed tamarins are not currently threatened. They are listed as a species of Least Concern on the IUCN Red List.
- Boinski, S. 2002. De Apen van Suriname / The Monkeys of Suriname. Paramaribo, Suriname: Stichting Natuurbehoud Suriname.
- IUCN Redlist
- University of Michigan Museum of Zoology Animal Diversity Wed (ADW)
Featured Saguinas midas photo has been adapted from the original by Frank Wouters.