The effects of group size and reproductive status on vigilance in captive Callithrix jacchus

Am J Primatol. 2012 Jul;74(7):613-21. doi: 10.1002/ajp.22013.


Previous work on mammals and birds has often demonstrated a negative relationship between group size and individual vigilance. However, this relationship has received only weak support in nonhuman primates. This result may be due to the failure to distinguish different forms of vigilance such as antipredatory vigilance and social monitoring. Here, we tested the effects of group size, reproductive status (breeding vs. nonbreeding), and sex on antipredatory vigilance and social monitoring in captive common marmosets (Callithrix jacchus). Behavioral observations using one-zero sampling were conducted on adult members of three captive groups of small, medium, and large size. Data were analyzed using a series of general linear models (GLMs) analyses of covariance (ANCOVAs). We found an overall negative group size effect on antipredatory vigilance and that breeders, especially breeding males, were significantly more vigilant than nonbreeders. Conversely, we found that social monitoring increased with group size. Unlike the results for antipredatory vigilance, neither breeders and nonbreeders nor males and females differed in their amounts of social monitoring. However, the effect of group size appeared to differ for nonbreeding males compared to all other adults. Our results generally support the idea that individuals in larger groups are safer with breeding males likely playing a prominent role in protection from predation. The increase in social monitoring may be related to increased reproductive competition with the presence of adult offspring, but future studies need to clarify the target of social monitoring in both breeders and nonbreeders. Overall, the study underlines the importance of distinguishing different forms of vigilance and other factors as they may confound the effects of group size on antipredatory vigilance.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arousal / physiology*
  • Behavior, Animal / physiology
  • Breeding
  • Callithrix / physiology*
  • Female
  • Male
  • Population Density
  • Predatory Behavior
  • Reproduction / physiology*
  • Social Behavior