Balancing contest competition, scramble competition, and social tolerance at feeding sites in wild common marmosets (Callithrix jacchus)

María Fernanda De la Fuente, Nicola Schiel, Júlio César Bicca-Marques, Christini B. Caselli, Antonio Souto, Paul A. Garber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Models of primate sociality focus on the costs and benefits of group living and how factors such as rank, feeding competition, alliance formation, and cooperative behavior shape within-group social relationships. We conducted a series of controlled field experiments designed to investigate how resource distribution (one or three of four reward platforms) and amount of food on a reward platform affected foraging strategies and individual feeding success in four groups of wild common marmosets (Callithrix jacchus) living in the Caatinga of northeastern Brazil. At our field site, common marmoset groups are characterized by a single breeding female who can produce twin litters twice per year, strong social cohesion, and cooperative infant care provided principally by several adult male helpers. We found that except for the dominant breeding female, rank (based on aggression) was not a strong predictor of feeding success. Although the breeding female in each group occupied the highest rank position and obtained the greatest daily feeding success, all other group members, including adults and juveniles experienced relatively equal feeding success across most experimental conditions. This was accomplished using a balance of behavioral strategies related to contest competition, scramble competition (associated with a finder's advantage), and social tolerance (sharing the same feeding platform). Based on these results, the social structure of common marmosets is best described as “single female dominance,” with the breeding female maximizing food intake needed to offset the energetic costs associated with reproductive twinning and the ability to produce two litters per year. Cooperative infant caregiving, in which the number of helpers is positively correlated with offspring survivorship, requires a set of behavioral strategies that serve to reduce contest competition and promote prosocial behaviors at feeding sites.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere22964
JournalAmerican journal of primatology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2019


  • cofeeding
  • feeding success
  • finder's share
  • foraging strategies
  • rank

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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