Cooperatively Breeding Cottontop Tamarins (Saguinus oedipus) Do Not Donate Rewards to Their Long-Term Mates

Katherine A. Cronin, Kori K.E. Schroeder, Emily S. Rothwell, Joan B. Silk, Charles T. Snowdon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

81 Scopus citations


This study tested the hypothesis that cooperative breeding facilitates the emergence of prosocial behavior by presenting cottontop tamarins (Saguinus oedipus) with the option to provide food rewards to pair-bonded mates. In Experiment 1, tamarins could provide rewards to mates at no additional cost while obtaining rewards for themselves. Contrary to the hypothesis, tamarins did not demonstrate a preference to donate rewards, behaving similar to chimpanzees in previous studies. In Experiment 2, the authors eliminated rewards for the donor for a stricter test of prosocial behavior, while reducing separation distress and food preoccupation. Again, the authors found no evidence for a donation preference. Furthermore, tamarins were significantly less likely to deliver rewards to mates when the mate displayed interest in the reward. The results of this study contrast with those recently reported for cooperatively breeding common marmosets, and indicate that prosocial preferences in a food donation task do not emerge in all cooperative breeders. In previous studies, cottontop tamarins have cooperated and reciprocated to obtain food rewards; the current findings sharpen understanding of the boundaries of cottontop tamarins' food-provisioning behavior.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)231-241
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Comparative Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • cooperative breeding
  • cottontop tamarin
  • donation
  • prosocial behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)


Dive into the research topics of 'Cooperatively Breeding Cottontop Tamarins (Saguinus oedipus) Do Not Donate Rewards to Their Long-Term Mates'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this