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Factors affecting the successful pairing of unfamiliar common marmoset (Callithrix jacchus) females: preliminary results

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Laboratory primates are often housed in same-sex pairs to avoid single-housing and when breeding is to be prevented. However, pair formation is not without risks, as fights and injuries may occur. No data are available on pair formation in female common marmosets (Callithrix jacchus), a species used extensively in laboratories. Therefore, this study focuses on the pairing of unfamiliar common marmoset females, aiming to assess its success rate and whether age can predict the result. Data on the study animals and success of the pairings were extracted from laboratory back-records: a total of 28 pairings was obtained. In addition, behavioural data were collected on six of the 28 pairs. Almost 80% of pairs were compatible beyond one week, and most of the fights occurred well within the first week after pair formation. Pairs in which one of the females was sexually immature (ie < 15 months) were significantly more compatible than pairs in which both females were post-pubertal. First encounters were characterised by sniffing of the unfamiliar monkey. Aggressive behaviours occurred frequently following pair formation but they were unidirectional, and in only two pairs was veterinary treatment required. This study shows that pairing of unfamiliar common marmoset females is a safe practice if one monkey is sexually immature, a result that supports observations of both group and pair formation in other primate species. However, given the potentially detrimental effects of removing young females from their natal groups, we argue that it is preferable to remove two sisters from their natal group when female pairs are required. However, when a single sexually mature female requires a pair mate so as to avoid single-housing and no mature sibling is available, an older, but still sexually immature, unfamiliar female that has had a normal development within the family should be considered as a pair mate.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: August 1, 2003

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