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Saguinus oedipus, Cotton-top Tamarin
Dr. James Rossie - Stony Brook University
Saguinus oedipus
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National Museum of Natural History (USNM 302340)

Image processing: Mr. Zachary Morris
Publication Date: 21 Nov 2002

Growth series: juvenile male | juvenile female | juvenile male | juvenile female | adult male


All-new movies and applet added July 2012!

Saguinus oedipus, the cottontop tamarin, is a South American or New World monkey. South American monkeys or platyrrhines comprise one of the two infraorders (Platyrrhini and Catarrhini) of anthropoid primates. They live exclusively in South and Central America, but their fossil distribution includes the Greater Antilles (MacPhee and Horovitz, 2002). The fossil record of platyrrhines extends back to the Deseadan or late Oligocene of Bolivia where they are represented by the genus Branisella (Takai and Anaya, 1996). Their presence in the New World is generally considered to be the result of a single dispersal event (Fleagle, 1999) near the end of the Eocene from the Old World, where all known basal anthropoids are found (Beard, 2002). Because South America was not connected with North America or Africa at the time, this dispersal must have involved rafting across some portion of the Atlantic.

Once in the New World, platyrrhines diverged into a variety of forms ranging in size from the smallest living anthropoid (Cebuella) at ~110 grams to the howler monkeys (Alouatta) that reach 11 kg (Fleagle, 1999). This diverse radiation of primates includes 78 living species (Fleagle, 1999) in 16 genera, one of which is the only living nocturnal anthropoid, Aotus. Their diets and locomotor adaptations are diverse, though most are at least partly frugivorous and none are primarily terrestrial.

Although the adaptations of different genera are reflected in their craniodental anatomy, platyrrhines in general retain a cranial morphology more similar to primitive anthropoids from the Eocene and Oligocene of Egypt such as Catopithecus, Parapithecus, and Aegyptopithecus than do the living Old World anthropoids (Fleagle, 1999; Simons, 2000). The research for which these CT data were collected indicates that this primitive anthropoid cranial morphology included considerable cranial pneumatization via the paranasal sinuses.


Saguinus oedipus is a member of the Callitrichinae, a group of small platyrrhines that are distinctive in having claw-like bilaterally compressed finger nails. S. oedipus is a small tamarin, with males and females averaging 418 g and 404 g respectively (Fleagle, 1999). Their diet includes fruit, small animals, and tree exudates (Fleagle, 1999).

About the Species

This female specimen, a juvenile (incisors and M2 erupting), was collected in the Canal Zone in Panama on the 9 November 1955 by C. M. Keenan. It was made available to The University of Texas High-Resolution X-ray CT Facility for scanning by Dr. James Rossie of Stony Brook University, courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution Division of Mammals. Scanning was funded by an NSF dissertation improvement grant to Mr. Rossie (#0100825). Funding for image processing was provided by a National Science Foundation Digital Libraries Initiative grant to Dr. Timothy Rowe of The University of Texas at Austin.


lateral view


dorsal view

About this Specimen

This specimen was scanned by Matthew Colbert on 12 March 2002 along the coronal axis for a total of 494 slices. Each slice is 0.0967 mm thick, with an interslice spacing of 0.0967 mm and a field of reconstruction of 37.5 mm.

About the


Beard, K. C. 2002. Basal anthropoids. In (W. C. Hartwig, Ed) The Primate Fossil Record, pp. 133-149. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Fleagle, J. G. 1999. Primate Adaptation and Evolution. San Diego, Academic Press.

MacPhee, R. D. E. and I. Horovitz. 2002. Extinct Quaternary platyrrhines of the Greater Antilles and Brazil. In (W. C. Hartwig, Ed) The Primate Fossil Record, pp. 189-200. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Simons, E. L. 2001. The cranium of Parapithecus grangeri, and Egyptian Oligocene anthropoidean primate. Proceedings of the National Acadademy of Sciences, USA 98:7892-7897.

Takai, M. and F. Anaya. 1996. New specimens of the oldest fossil platyrrhine, Branisella boliviana, from Salla, Bolivia. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 99:301-317.


Saguinus oedipus on the Animal Diversity Web (The University of Michigan Museum of Zoology)

& Links

None available.


To cite this page: Dr. James Rossie, 2002, "Saguinus oedipus" (On-line), Digital Morphology. Accessed September 28, 2020 at http://digimorph.org/specimens/Saguinus_oedipus/302340/.

©2002-20019 - UTCT/DigiMorph Funding by NSF