The golden lion tamarin (Leontopithecus rosalia) is one of many species of monkeys native to the tropical forests of South and Central America. Monkeys native to the Americas are referred to as New World monkeys, whereas monkeys in Africa and Asia are called Old World monkeys. New World monkeys are the only native primates in the Americas, along with humans who are believed to have migrated from Asia tens of thousands of years ago.
Golden lion tamarins once inhabited much of the eastern rainforests of Brazil, but hundreds of years of agricultural development, logging, and fragmentation of habitat led to alarming declines in their population. No more than five percent of their original habitat is now available to them. Through conservation and reintroduction programs, the golden lion tamarin now inhabits a small part of Brazil’s coast near Rio de Janeiro called Mata Atlântica. It is still considered an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List and partners in conservation.
The monkeys are arboreal, living much of their lives in the tree canopies high above the forest floor. They are small with long tails (adults are about 20 centimeters [10 inches] tall with tails of about 33 centimeters [13 inches] long). They have an omnivorous diet that includes insects, small fruits, and flowers and use their elongated hands and fingers to extract their meals from crevices in trees and plants, including a specialized type of plant found in rainforest tree canopies called epiphytes.
Scientific research tells us that monkeys in the Americas may have come here millions of years ago from Africa. How might these early primates have traveled from Africa to the Americas?
What has caused tamarin populations in South America to decline?
What role do reintroduction programs play in ensuring that species of wildlife do not go extinct?
Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry arboreal Adjective
having to do with trees.
lengthened or extended.
endangered species Noun
organism threatened with extinction.
Encyclopedic Entry: endangered species epiphyte Noun
plant that grows on the branches or trunk of another plant or object.
breaking up of large habitats into smaller, isolated chunks. Fragmentation is one of the main forms of habitat destruction.
International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Noun
environmental organization concerned with preserving natural ecosystems and habitats.
industry engaged in cutting down trees and moving the wood to sawmills.
New World Noun
the Western Hemisphere, made up of the Americas and their islands.
Old World Noun
the Eastern Hemisphere, especially Europe, Asia, and Africa.
organism that eats a variety of organisms, including plants, animals, and fungi.
Encyclopedic Entry: omnivore primate Noun
type of mammal, including humans, apes, and monkeys.
intentional return of an endemic species to its native range after it has been removed or in severe decline.