WHAT DOES IT MEAN? (A few helpful facts on Callitrichid vocalizations and body language)
This is Petie, a juvenile tufted marmoset with the open-eyed, relaxed expression of a content and curious callitrichid.
Like all primates, Callitrichids have a wide range of visual and vocal communications. They have a rich language and use facial expressions, body postures and vocalizations to convey information about their emotional state, social status and intent. Due in part to their small size and natural habitats vocal communication is important over longer distances and visual signals are used more in close-range communications. When attempting to interpret and understand Marmoset and Tamarin communications, remember that what they are attempting to convey needs to be taken in context.
"PHEE" A very loud high pitched whistle used primarily over long distances. This is basically a "where are you?" and used to locate family members
"TSIKS and STACCATOS" A brief descending series of chirps that signify a possible threat. (I often hear this if PJ sees the neighbors dog in the yard)
"TRILL" This is a common communication call and is heard frequently between interaction and play. They often use this as a response call if you whisle across a room, for instance.
"SEE or SEEP" This is a brief, loud call emitted with mouth half open. It is motivated by fear or alarm and is usually done with the monkey seemingly frozen in position.
"TWITTER" Similar to "seep" but has a lower frequency and is emitted in a repeated pattern. This is heard in situations of mild disturbance, unrecognized noise or possible conflict. I've heard PJ do this when watching the cats playing with one another a little rougher than he would like.
"TSAK" Similar to "seep" but much louder and with a lower frequency. This call is heard in panic situations along with "EKK" and "COUGH" and warns of approaching predator and general alarm. It is used as a mobbing call and all other individuals will respond with a similar call.
"LOUD TSAK" Similar to "tsak" but extremely loud and with mouth wide open. This is sometimes emitted with rapid in/out tongue movement and is motivated by intense alarm. It is accompanied by pilo-erection.
"CHIRP" This is a common call and heard in situations of play, and at the sight of food. I often hear this sound when PJ is enjoying an ear scratch or is extremely content and grooming.
"COUGH" This call has a low frequency and is emitted in short durations signifying mild alarm or caution. Sometimes used when approaching an unknown object or in a new situation.
"EKK" Another mild alarm call emitted with mouth slightly open and often done while standing on hind legs (ike a prairie dog) and checking out surroundings.
"SCREAM" Loud, very long call done with mouth open and done in varying harmonics. This call generally has playful motivations and is accompanied with submissive body behaviors.
"EEK EEK EEK" This is a call and behavior applicable only to Tamarins. Teeth are clenched and bared while shaking head side to side (much like a chimpanzee playfully laughing and shaking its head). In a Tamarin this is communicating frustration and alpha posturing and can be seen as a challenge. When confronted with this particular vocalization and body posturing its best just to speak in a calm voice and stare right back!
"PURR": Again this applies only to Tamarins and is indeed a true purring sound. They do this when extremely content and happy.
GALLOP: This is when an individual runs quickly with tail extended and is commonly seen during play or fleeing from a predator. It has both fear and play motivations.
BOUNCE: This is running with an exaggerated bouncing movement and is used to initiate play or exploration. It's a way of saying "come with me" or "follow me"
STALK: An individual will visually fixate on another and hide and bounce in an attempt to engage another in play.
SLIDE: This is where an individual moves onto his side propelled by arms and legs and is also a component of playful behavior.
ROLL: This is where an individual rolls onto the back or sides in a somersault motion. It is seen in social and solitary play .
LEG STAND: This is when an individual stand on its hind legs with hands outstretched. This can be seen when observing an object and is generally motivated by interest or curiosity and an attempt to get better visibility. If accompanied by other behaviors, it can also be used to signify aggression and attempt to make the individual appear "larger".
WITHDRAWAL GESTURE: This is when an individual withdraws its body and arms while doing a leg stand. It signifies submission (i.e. "Don't touch me" or No, I don't want to") Seen for instance if the individual has something that you want to take away.
CRINGE: This is a more extreme form of withdrawal and the hind legs are bent. The posture is submissive and motivated by extreme fear. Eyes will be averted and ear tufs wll be down.
LIP SMACKING: Lips are smacked in a rhythmic motion and may be accompanied with slow tongue in/out. This is not done occasionally to show submission and an attempt to appease. It is done during mating approach and to resolve extreme conflict.
SLOW TONGUE IN/OUT: This is when the tongue is moved in and out slowly. It is used only occasionally during grooming.
QUICK TONGUE IN/OUT: This is when the tongue is moved more quickly as compared to slow in/out. This is used in response to reciprocal behavior during mating.
VERY RAPID TONGUE IN/OUT: This is done with mouth wide open and tongue is moved very quickly towards another individual. This is given in response to potential predators and is motivated as a defense response.
HEAD COCK STARE: This is where an individual moves the head from side to side while observing a stimulus. It shows interest and curiosity.
OPEN MOUTH: This is where the individual has the mouth wide ope with teeth sometimes showing. This behavior is common and is motivated by playful intent. It is used more by adult males than females.
HEAD TOSS: This is where an individual stands upright on hind legs and tosses the head back and forth. This behavior isn't commonly seen in those kept as companions and is used primarily as gesturing to another troop.
PARTIAL OPEN MOUTH: This is when the middle portion of mouth is open and teeth are visible. It can be seen while approaching an unknown object or as a response to non-specific aggression.
BARED TEETH SCREAM:
ARCH BRISTLE LOCOMOTION:
TAIL RAISED PRESENT:
PILO RUMP PRESENT:
Years of personal experience and some great research done by:
Fleagle, J. G. 1988. Primate Adaptation and Evolution. Academic Press.
Groves, C.P. 2001. Primate Taxonomy. Smithsonian Institute Press: Washington, D.C.
Nowak, R.M. 1999. Walker's Primates of the World. The Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore and London.
Rowe, N. 1996. The Pictorial Guide to the Living Primates. Pogonias Press: East Hampton, New York.
Rylands, A.B. 1981. Preliminary field observations on the marmoset Callithrix humeralifer intermedius (Hershkovitz, 1977) at Dardanelos, Rio Aripuana, Mato Grosso. Primates. Vol. 22, 46-59.
Rylands, A.B. 1984. Exudate-eating and tree-gouging by marmosets (Callitrichidae, Primates).In: Tropical Rain Forest: The Leeds Symposium. eds. A.C. Chadwick and S.L. Sutton. Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society, Leeds, p. 155-168.
Stallings, J.R. and Mittermeier, R.A. 1983. The black-tailed marmoset (Callithrix argentata melanura) recorded from Paraguay. American Journal of Primatology. Vol. 4, 159-163.
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