[ Callimico goeldii ]

Quick Facts


BODY LENGTH: 8.5 to 9 inches
TAIL LENGTH: 10 to 12.8 inches

14.1 to 18.9 ounces

WILD DIET: insects, spiders, lizards, frogs, fruits, and fungus
ZOO DIET: commercially prepared canned "marmoset diet," steamed sweet potatoes, carrots, green beans, cucumber, apple, banana, papaya, grapes, hardboiled eggs, peanuts, mealworms, crickets
DISTRIBUTION: sparsely distributed in eastern Peru, eastern Ecuador, western Brazil, Colombia, and Bolivia
HABITAT: tropical forest with a heavy shrub-layer, swamps, and moist areas next to rivers and streams



A Monkey with a Mystery

Hard to find
Small, elusive, and sparsely distributed, callimicos are difficult to observe in the wild. These primates inhabit the dense forests of the upper Amazon River basin. With black to brownish-black fur, they are the darkest of all the primates in the tamarin and marmoset family. They have thick, soft, fur with a short mane atop the head, and jaw-whiskers on each side of the face. Callimico have broad hands with short fingers. They don't put their hands or fingers into crevices to forage for insects. Instead, they employ a “pounce and grab” technique for catching insects..

It’s in the numbers
So what is the mystery about callimicos? It is how they are related to the rest of the marmosets and tamarins. Callimicos share many traits with these other small monkeys. But the tiny callimicos have a couple of big differences that some scientists think set them distinctly apart from their tamarin and marmoset relatives. Callimicos have three molar teeth, while other tamarins and marmosets have just two. Another difference is that callimicos give birth to a single baby, while tamarins and marmosets usually give birth to two. What is the big deal about these small number differences?

Mystery solved?
Well, scientists now think that callimicos will soon ("soon" being thousands of years in the evolutionary time frame!) have only two molars like the other members of the family. It is thought that these primates are all in the middle of becoming smaller over timethey are adapting to better hunt their tiny, crevice-loving prey, insects. Because molars are good for grinding tough vegetation, and tamarins and marmosets no longer eat vegetation, they have lost their third molars. Experts suspect that callimicos will lose theirs too...but it is happening a little more slowly. That is the best answer science can come up with to explain the differencesat least for now.

Time together
Groups of as many as 12 individual callimicos have been documented in the wild, some of which have had two adult males and three adult females with some subadults, juveniles, and more than one infant. A callimico troop is tightly bound. They rarely venture farther than 50 feet from other members of the troop. A troop stays in contact visuallythey have excellent eyesightand by calling to each other. Nearly 40 different types of vocalizations have been identified, some which keep the troop together, and others that warn of danger. A callimico out of sight or call-range from its troop is in real danger of being eaten by a predator. Snakes, cats, and birds of prey all will make a meal of this pint-sized primate.

Low-rise, high-rise
Callimicos sleep in the lower part of the forest, usually below the 16-foot level, but they sometimes forage on the ground.
Fruit and fungi are also very important components of the die and they will climb as high as 100 feet to dine on fruit. When some animals are threatened they take to the trees and climb as high as they can. Callimicos, on the other hand, bolt downwards when there is danger to hide among the lower branches, vines, roots, and shrubs.

Callimicos at Brookfield Zoo
Callilmicos can be found near the walkway in Tropic World: South America. Brookfield Zoo participates in the Callimico Species Survival Plan (SSP), a team effort between zoos that carefully plans the breeding of callimicos. The SSP Coordinator for callimico is Mark Warneke, who works at the Animal Hospital at Brookfield Zoo, and he is also the International Studbook Keeper for callimico.


In 2008 Brookfield Zoo was awarded the prestigious Bean Award from the Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA) for our long-term work with callimico.

Get Involved

Conservation Fund of the Chicago Zoological Society