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Interdiscip Top Gerontol. 2008;36:29-48. doi: 10.1159/000137678.

Reproduction and aging in marmosets and tamarins.

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  • 1University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio, TX 78245, USA.


This chapter presents data on the relations between reproduction and aging in both captive and free-ranging marmosets and tamarins. The relationship is examined from two perspectives. First, the relation of age to physiological impairments in reproductive function is explored. Callitrichid females, in common with many other nonhuman primates, begin to display anovulation associated with follicular depletion at a point relatively close to the maximum life span. Unlike Old World primates, however, they continued to display significant steroidogenic activity in the ovary. There are age effects on some reproductive output variables, such as litter size and inter-birth interval, though the effects are often small. Like other mammals, male marmosets display a change in levels of androgens with age, although the magnitude of the decrease is not large and they actually mount an elevated response to GnRH challenge as they age. We also examined whether age affects either the establishment or maintenance of a breeding position, the factors most important in determining lifetime reproductive success. Infant mortality did increase with increasing parturitions, suggesting that there may have been aging or parturition effects on lactation. Generally, marmoset females were well past the age of sexual maturity at the beginning of the tenure and approaching 8-9 years at the end of it. Reproductive decline did not appear to be a gradual process, but a rather abrupt one, often causing the dismantling of the group. There are potentially interesting relations among maternal age, mass and declining reproductive performance, given the known importance of mass as a determinant of reproductive success in female callitrichids.

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