Primate Info Net Banner Wisconsin PRC Logo

Goeldi's monkey
Callimico goeldii


The social system of callimicos is not uniform and can be different between groups even within a specific population (Porter & Christen 2002). Observed group sizes are also variable, ranging between 2-12 individuals, usually consisting of adults, including sometimes more than one of each sex, and immature individuals (Izawa & Yoneda 1981; Masataka 1981; Pook & Pook 1981; 1982; Buchanan-Smith 1991; Christen & Geissmann 1994; Christen 1998; Encarnación & Heymann 1998; Christen 1999; Porter 2000; see Porter 2006; Rehg 2007). In captivity, groups with more than one breeding female do not last long and are typically ended by aggression between females (Carroll 1988).

C. goeldii
Photo: Verena Behringer

Group cohesion is strong, with the group remaining within 15m (49.2 ft) of each other most of the time (Pook & Pook 1981). However, in captivity, time spent very close to one another is low (Omedes & Carroll 1980). Inter-group encounters are rare in the wild, possibly reflecting a lack of range defense, but when then do occur, chasing and vocalization are seen, but rarely result in physical injuries (Porter 2001c; Rehg 2003; Porter 2007; Porter et al. 2007).

Grooming, both self and allogrooming, occurs often during group rest periods (Pook & Pook 1981). In general, males groom less than females (Masataka 1981). In captivity, most grooming occurs between the mating pair (Laurin et al. 1994).

Emigration occurs from the natal group if no suitable, non-parent mate is present (Porter et al. 2001).

In captivity, agonism is shown by the arched bristle leap, a behavior where the animal piloerects and jumps between supports, arching its back and vocalizing. Males perform this behavior more than females. However, aggressive behavior between a breeding pair is uncommon in captivity (Carroll 1985). Tail piloerection indicates stress in captive callimicos (Dettling et al. 1998).


It is estimated that in roughly one in three callimico groups are polygynous, with the rest consisting of monogamous pairs (Masataka 1981; Carroll 1988; Christen 1998; Encarnación & Heymann 1998; Porter 2007). Polyandrous groups have also been observed (Porter & Garber 2004; 2005).

Captive females reach sexual maturity at 57 weeks of age and males are reproductively fertile at 15-16 months of age (Pryce & Dettling 1995; Dettling & Pryce 1999). However, female sexual behavior in captivity has been seen as young as 8.5 months of age and male sexual behavior as young as 5 months (Lorenz 1972). The typical ovarian cycle in captivity is around 24 days, and the species shows no morphological indicators of reproductive condition (Lorenz 1972; Carroll et al. 1990; Carroll 1994; Dettling 2002). Callimicos ovulate postpartum while lactating resulting in a high conception rate (Ziegler et al. 1989). In captivity, the interbirth interval is around 6 months (Carroll 1982; Welker & Klaiber 1996).

C. goeldii
Photo: Anita Yantz

There may be two birth seasons per year in the wild, although in some years there is only one birth season (Masataka 1981; Porter 2007). Gestation averages around five months, and females can get pregnant twice in the same year (Lorenz 1972; Masataka 1981; Beck et al. 1982; Carroll 1994; Pryce & Dettling 1995; Porter 2007).

A presumable solicitation posture consists of the female standing bipedally with her chest in the face of a male. Presenting consists of the female standing facing away from the male in a quadrupedal stance and looking back over her shoulder at him (Carroll 1985). In captivity, tongue-flicking also solicits copulation. Actual copulation is dorso-ventral, with self-grooming taking place post-copulation (Lorenz 1972). In the wild, copulation is short in duration (Porter 2000).


In the wild and in captivity, callimicos give birth to singletons with short black hair and a bare ventrum (Pook 1975; Beck et al. 1982; Jacobs 1984; Schradin & Anzenberger 2001; Porter 2007). While extremely rare, twinning has been seen in captivity (Altmann et al. 1988). At birth, males weigh an average of 54.7 g (1.9 oz) while females average 53.3 g (1.9 oz) (data compiled by Smith & Leigh 1998). Captive weight at birth averages around 53-56 g (1.9-2.0 oz) (Altmann et al. 1988; Sodaro 2000).

In captivity and in the wild, the infant is carried exclusively by the mother for around the first two or three weeks of life after which other group members, especially the father begin to carry the infant (Heltne et al. 1973; Pook 1975; Masataka 1981; Beck et al. 1982; Carroll 1994; Jurke & Pryce 1994; Anderson 1997; Schradin & Anzenberger 2001; Dettling 2002). In captivity, while fathers and various non-parental group members start helping to carry infants after that time, the mother remains the primary carrier throughout infancy (Schradin & Anzenberger 2001). In the wild, the first transfer of the infant from the mother occurs earlier (as early as 4 days old) and over the course of the first two or three months of life, various group members will carry the infant (Porter 2001c; Porter & Garber 2004; Porter 2007). In the wild, all group members help care for the infant (Porter 2007). However, wild infants will only first start to venture off their carriers when forced by their parents (Porter 2007). The transfer to the father for carrying partially reflects increasing maternal aggression towards the infant which steadily increases between the second and fifth weeks of age (Heltne et al. 1973; Jurke & Pryce 1994; Jurke et al. 1995). Carrying is usually diagonally across the shoulders of the mother although in the first weeks of life ventral carrying is also seen (Heltne et al. 1973; Pook 1975). In the wild, for the first two months of life, infants are only carried by adults and during the first month of life are carried almost all of the time (Porter 2001c). In wild polyandrous groups, more than one male will care for the infant of a female with which several males have mated (Porter & Garber 2004).

C. goeldii
Photo: Anita Yantz

In captivity, the infant is first seen off of carriers at around 5 weeks of age and also starts eating solid food around this time (Jurke & Pryce 1994; Dettling 2002). Wild parents start sharing adult foods with infants starting at 26 days old (Porter 2001c; 2007). In the wild, infants start to willingly leave carriers on their own at 2.5 months old (Porter 2001c). In captivity, allogrooming starts at an average of 81 days, piloerection displays at 113 days, and genital rubbing is first seen at 103 days on average (Beck et al. 1982). Social play starts around 68 days old in captivity (Anderson 1997). At around 8 to 9 weeks of age, the infants are not carried anymore (Dettling 2002). In the wild, locomotor independence is achieved around 3 months of age (Porter & Garber 2004). Over the first six weeks of captive life, nursing time steadily decreases and by 16 weeks old, infants are fully weaned (Carroll 1982; Jurke et al. 1995). Between 6 and 12 months of age in captivity, the infant molts (Beck et al. 1982; Carroll 1982).

The most common infant-specific vocalization is a whistle-like call which they emit until they are three months old. Other types of infant calls include higher-pitched calls, "hoe hoe" contact calls, click sounds, and calls reflecting excitement, tense situations, maternal rejection, aggression, play, and other situations. Further, as infant behavioral development progresses, new call types enter the infant's repertoire while others exit (see Masataka 1982).


The callimico vocal canon consists of 40 discrete vocalizations in the wild (Masataka 1982). Calls can be divided up into several general types, including long-distance location calls, long-distance contact calls, short-distance contact calls, alarm calls, warning calls, short-distance location calls, and agonistic calls (Masataka 1982). Many calls grade into one another and are not immediately discrete and distinguishable (Pook & Pook 1981). Long-distance location calls are usually heard when individuals are more than 20 m (65.6 ft) from another. Long-distance contact calls function to maintain contact between spatially dispersed individuals. In the presence of a predator or potential threat, alarm or warning calls are given. Short-distance contact calls function to keep contact with individuals within 10 m (32.8 ft), and often causes individuals to move toward one another. Short-distance location calls are very frequently heard, with calls distinguishable to individual, and are commonly heard during feeding and group movement. There are various levels of agonistic call, given in differing degrees of aggressive behavior (Masataka 1982).

Callimico contact calls also function inter-specifically such that the calls of other primate species, especially those with which associations are formed, are responded to by callimicos and vice versa and help in the formation of such groups (Porter 2001a). Captive experiments also indicate that the same is true for threat calls and alarm calls (Masataka 1986).

In the wild, aggression is signaled by an arched posture, and also by a mouth-open facial expression and arch bristle leaps (Omedes & Carroll 1980; Masataka 1981; 1982; Porter et al. 2001). The arch bristle leap display consists of the callimico jumping from support to support with its hair erected (Omedes & Carroll 1980). Piloerection of the hairs of the body is also considered a threat display while piloerection of the tail may indicate stress in captive animals (Masataka 1982; Dettling et al. 1998). Flicking of the tongue signals appeasement (Lorenz 1972).

There are several potential types of olfactory communication seen in callimicos. In captivity, sternal scent-marking has been seen (Omedes & Carroll 1980). In the wild and in captivity, tail-anointing (or tail-marking) occurs, in which the tail is moistened by urinating upon it and/or rubbing it on the scent glands and the ano-genital region, torso, and chest (Wojcik & Heltne 1976; Omedes & Carroll 1980; Pook & Pook 1981).

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) Behavior . <'s_monkey/behav>. Accessed 2019 December 14.