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Goeldi's monkey
Callimico goeldii

Conservation status:

Life span: >20 years (captive)
Total population: Unknown
Regions: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Peru
Gestation: 5 months
Height: 21 to 31 cm (M & F)
Weight: 366 g (M), 355 g (F)

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Suborder: Haplorrhini
Infraorder: Simiiformes
Family: Cebidae
Subfamily: Callitrichinae
Genus: Callimico
Species: C. goeldii

Other names: callimico, Goeldi's tamarin, Goeldi's marmoset; Goeldis marmoset (Danish); Goelds tamarin (Dutch); Hyppytamariini (Finnish); tamarin de Goeldi, tamarin sauteur (French); springtamarin (German); callimico di Goeldi (Italian); chichilo negro, marimonito, mico-de-Goeldii, mono Goeldi, mono negro, pichico negro, Tití de Goeldi (Spanish); Goeldis apa, Goeldis tamarin, goeldisapa (Swedish).

Goeldi's monkeys are a monotypic species, and are placed in their own genus Callimico (Groves 2005). For the sake of simplicity and due to their distinctiveness, Goeldi's monkeys are referred to here simply as callimicos as per Warneke (1988).


C. goeldii
Photo: Anita Yantz

Callimicos are small primates, outwardly similar to and reminiscent of tamarins in both size and shape (Hill 1959; Heltne et al. 1981). They are only a little larger than a squirrel (Jacobs 1984). The species can exhibit broad variation in pelage color, but only at very low levels within populations (Vasarhelyi 2000). In general, callimicos are usually various shades of black but can range from jet black to blackish brown or dark brown, to black with brown and grey, to having some reddish brown, silvery brown, or even some white on restricted areas of the body (Hill 1959; Hershkovitz 1977; Vasarhelyi 2000; Ankel-Simons 2007). Normally, when other colors or tints other than black are seen they are limited to the head, back, tail, limbs, and dorsal areas (Hershkovitz 1977). The fur is thick, soft, sleek and silky usually around 1-2 cm (0.4-0.8 in) long (Hill 1959; Heltne et al. 1981). In addition, there is a mane of longer hair around the neck which either partially or completely hides the ears and the hair on the crown of the head is plush and upright (Jacobs 1984; Defler 2004).

Unlike the other callitrichids, callimicos have three molars as opposed to two (Porter 2007). They have claws on almost all of their digits except the toilet claw or hallux (Pook 1978; Heltne et al. 1981; Ankel-Simons 2007). The skin around and on the face, cheeks and eyelids is dark, but the remainder of skin is a starkly contrasting white or pink color, albeit usually covered by the dark hair and invisible, except on the ventral region which is bare (Heltne et al. 1981). Callimicos have a pronounced sternal gland which potentially functions in olfactory communication (Hershkovitz 1977).

Wild callimico males weigh on average 366 g (12.0 oz) while females weigh 355 g (12.5 oz) (Encarnación & Heymann 1998). Captive examples weigh somewhat more than their wild counterparts (Vasarhelyi 2000). Body length is between 21 and 31 cm (8.3 and 12.2 in) with a tail that is somewhat longer than the head and body (Defler 2004). The tail is not prehensile (Ankel-Simons 2007).

In general, callimicos are arboreal, and usually found in the understory, below 10m (32.8 ft) off the ground (Pook & Pook 1981; Cameron et al. 1989; Christen 1994; Christen & Geissmann 1994; Garber & Rehg 1998; Porter 2004; Porter et al. 2007). Movement is usually limited to quadrupedal walking, bounding-hops, running, and leaping. Leaping and clinging in a vertical position often makes up a large percentage of the locomotor activity, with the animal moving from support to support in a vertical position (Pook & Pook 1981; Garber & Leigh 2001; Porter 2004; Ankel-Simons 2007). Quadrupedal movement occurs usually when the callimico is moving higher off the ground (Pook & Pook 1981). Vertical quadrupedal movement is also used, as is occasional terrestrial movement (Christen & Geissmann 1994).

Captive examples have lived into their early twenties (Weigl 2005).

Callimicos are included in their own genus due to their unique morphology and biology. The species possesses a third molar and have single offspring, like cebids, as opposed to the callitrichines of which it is a member. However, like the other callitrichines, callimicos possess claws and are similar in body size in addition to sharing some behavioral characteristics (Porter & Garber 2004; Porter 2007).


Callimico goeldii

Callimicos are found in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, and Peru (Hershkovitz 1977). In general, the geographic range of callimicos is not well defined, partially owing to its low population densities and the resulting propensity to be overlooked in surveys (Porter 2000; 2007). Within its range, there are often large distances between callimico groups (Izawa 1979). In fact, the species is well known from only several locations, including the Pando region, Bolivia, the eastern Madre de Dios, Peru, and the southeastern areas of the Acre region, Brazil (Porter 2007). The northern limits of its distribution are in southern Colombia, as far north as the Río Caquetá and the southern limits are in northern Bolivia north of the Río Manuripi (Izawa 1979; Porter 2006; 2007). The eastern limits of their distribution are unknown, and in the west the species is limited by the Andean foothills (Hershkovitz 1977; Porter 2007).


Callimicos prefer primary forest with a dense understory and are found in this type of habitat the majority of the time (Christen 1994; Christen & Geissmann 1994; Porter 2004; 2007). Other types of habitat in which they are found include secondary, disturbed habitats and bamboo patches, primary forest with an open understory, swampy primary forest, shabby forest, scrub forest, areas of human subsistence cultivation which have reforested, treefalls and stream edge forest (Buchanan-Smith 1991; Christen 1994; 1999; Porter 2004; 2007; Porter et al. 2007; Rehg 2007). Between the seasons, use of habitat types varies, with habitats other than primary forests used somewhat more in the dry season and primary forest with dense understory used more in the wet season (Porter 2004; Porter et al. 2007). A mix of stream edge and bamboo habitat may be ideal for the species, as both of these contain callimico food items (Porter 2006). However, in areas where there is an abundance of secondary forest, it is the type of habitat is used most (Porter et al. 2007).

At one study site in the Department of Pando, Bolivia, the yearly rainfall total was 197 cm (77.6 in), mostly falling during the rainy season between October and May. There is a dry season between June and September. Average highs were around 30°C (86°F) with average lows around 21.3°C (70.3°F). Occasionally between May and September, cold fronts sometimes come into the region and temperatures can get as low as 13°C (55.4°F) (Porter 2007).


Callimicos eat arthropods (31%), fungus (29%), fruits (29%), unknown items (7%), nectar (3%) and exudates (1%) (Porter 2001b). In addition, they also eat some vertebrates, including frogs, toads, bird eggs, and lizards (Porter 2001b; Rehg 2003). Both jelly fungus (Auricularia) and bamboo fungus (Ascopolyporous) are consumed and fungi are very important to the species, a fact which is true of few primates and could be a strategy to avoid feeding competition (Porter 2001b; Hanson 2006). Of the arthropods, callimicos eat predominantly orthopterans, but also phasmida, scorpions, spiders, cicadas, mantids, cockroaches, moths, including larvae, pupae, and eggs (Porter 2001b).

C. goeldii
Photo: Edilio Nacimento Becerra

There is seasonal variation in food item consumption, with more fungus eaten between March and July during the dry season (Porter 2001b; Rehg 2003; Porter et al. 2007). Between May-July, fungus can comprise nearly half or more of the diet (Porter 2001b; Porter et al. 2007). Fruits are most important during the wet season, and can make up over half the diet in January and February and are eaten less during the dry season (Porter 2001b; Rehg 2003; Porter et al. 2007).

In general, callimicos spend most of their day resting, followed by feeding, foraging, traveling and engaged in other activities (Rehg 2003; Porter 2004). During one year-long study, callimicos spent their time resting (66%), traveling (17%), feeding (9%), foraging (6%) and in other activities (2%) (Porter 2004). Resting behaviors include mostly scanning, but also grooming, sitting, and investigating. Although in one study activity budgets changed little between seasons, another study of a different group in a different year did find significant differences (Porter 2004; Porter et al. 2007).

Callimicos have large average home ranges, with reported values from 0.3 to 1.5 km² (0.1 to 0.6 mi²) (Pook & Pook 1981; Porter 2001a; Porter et al. 2007; Rehg in press cited in Porter et al. 2007). This is in contrast to, and far larger than the home ranges of similarly sized sympatric primates, such as Saguinus, with callimico home ranges often overlapping with multiple troops of the same (Porter 2000; 2004). Daily path averages 925 m (3034.8 ft) (Porter et al. 2007).

Callimicos prefer to sleep in dense tangles of vegetation or leaves (Porter 2004).

Poly-specific groups are formed with red-bellied (Saguinus labiatus) and saddle-back tamarins (Saguinus fuscicollis) (Christen 1994; Porter 2001a; Porter & Garber 2004; Rehg 2006; Porter et al. 2007). Such associations, maintained by proximity or vocalization, are important to callimicos, and the species has been found in such associations more than half of the time (Porter 2001a; Rehg 2006; Porter et al. 2007). Inter-specific associations are more common in the wet season than during the dry season and Porter and Christen (Porter 2001a; Porter & Christen 2002) propose that the main purpose is to increase the productivity of fruit foraging, but also to allow the species to travel more safely in higher levels of the forest. Further, when in a mixed-species troop with other primates, callimicos travel further and expand the breadth of their diet (Porter & Garber 2007). Callimicos have also been seen to form associations with emperor tamarins (Saguinus imperator) (Azevedo Lopes & Rehg 2003).

Other primates with which callimicos can be sympatric include pygmy marmosets (Callithrix pygmaea), capuchins (Cebus albifrons, C. apella), squirrel monkeys (Saimiri boliviensis), titi monkeys (Callicebus brunneus, C. cupreus), red howler monkeys (Alouatta sara), owl monkey (Aotus nigriceps), and sakis (Pithecia irrorata) (Rehg 2006; Porter 2007).

Potential predators include carnivores including the bush dog (Speothos vanaticus), coati (Nasua nasua), tayra (Eira barbara), and puma (Puma concolor). Potential avian predators include hawks (Accipiter bicolor, Asturina nitida, Buteo mangirostris), eagles (Morphnus guianensis), falcons (Micrastur ruficollis) and owls (Lophostrix cristata). Snakes may also pose a threat (Rehg 2003; 2006). The callimico tendency to remain in the understory likely reduces the threat posed by avian predators and poly-specific associations also serve to lessen predation risk (Porter 2001a; Porter & Garber 2004). Unlike other neotropical primates who flee to higher levels when disturbed or threatened, callimicos will quickly descend to lower levels of the understory and hide (Pook & Pook 1981; Christen 1994).

Content last modified: August 26, 2008

Written by Kurt Gron. Reviewed by Leila Porter.

Cite this page as:
Gron KJ. 2008 August 26. Primate Factsheets: Goeldi's monkey (Callimico goeldii) Taxonomy, Morphology, & Ecology . <'s_monkey>. Accessed 2020 March 28.