Callithrix penicillata

KINGDOM: Animalia (Animals)

PHYLUM: Chordata (Possessing a notochord)

CLASS: Mammalia (Mammals)

ORDER: Primates

FAMILY: Callitrichidae (New world monkeys)


GENUS: Callithrix (Marmosets and Tamarins)

SPECIES: Callithrix penicillata (Black Eared Marmoset)


Black Eared Marmosets have a very wide distribution, occurring in the neo-tropical gallery forests of the Brazilian Central Plateau. They live along the Brazillian coast ranging from Bahia to Sao Paulo, and as far inland as Goias.

With black tufts of hair around their ears and sparse white hairs on the face, black eared marmosets usually have brown or black heads. The limbs, torso, and belly are grey, whilst the underside and rump are black. The tail is ringed with black and white stripes.

Black eared marmosets can usually be found high up in trees, but still below the canopy. Although quadropedal, these marmosets are very rarely observed on the ground.

Tree sap is the major food source for black eared marmosets, (which they get to by biting through tree bark!) although they will also eat fruit and insects during droughts. During sustained droughts, the black eared marmoset will adapt its diet to include small birds and bird eggs, athropods, molluscs and small vertebrates.

They are monogamous and form family groups, which include the parental pair and their offspring. These groups usually consist of between 2 to 14 individuals.

Only the breeding pair in the group will breed and both parents are involved with rearing babies. Males will carry babies for females in between feeds.

These marmosets are thought to be nomadic, relocating according to the weather/seasons. Territorial scent marking does occur, but it is believed to be for detering other species from eating in the area, rather than for warning off other marmosets.

Black eared marmosets breed twice a year and generally have twins, although they may have up to 4 offspring. Gestation is 150 days and the babies are weened at 8 weeks. They reach maturity at 18 months, but even though sexually mature, the young may take some time finding a mate to move off and start their own family group with. While still with their parents, they will help raise younger siblings. They live for about 15 years.

The black eared marmoset is preyed upon by birds of prey, snakes and wild cats.

The threats faced by black eared marmosets include the pet trade and habitat loss due to deforestation.

Did you know?

  • Black eared marmosets use special vocalizations and visual scanning for predator alerts
  • They can move up to 40 km per hour
  • The white spot on the forehead is used for communication in the shaded, dark areas of the forest.
  • Marmoset communication is very polite, they never interrupt each other while chattering, waiting until the other marmoset is finished before answering.



Did you know vultures feed on carrion (dead carcasses) and do not kill their own prey? Their feet are weak and better suited to walking on the ground than to picking up prey