What is a buffy-tufted marmoset? © Daniel Sotto Maior

What is a buffy-tufted marmoset?

Published: 26th August, 2022 at 11:00
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These pint-sized primates live high in the mountains of Brazil's Atlantic rainforest and are at risk of extinction.

If you know your marmosets, then the buffy-tufted marmoset is weird. Even if you don’t know your marmosets, it’s still pretty kooky. With its protuberant ear tufts and pallid grey face, it looks like a cross between Krusty the Clown from The Simpsons and Robert Smith from The Cure. Some conservationists even call it the ‘goth marmoset,’ while in Portuguese it’s known as sagui caveirinha; the ‘little skull monkey.’


It bucks the marmoset trend by not eating tree sap and not looking cute. Its relatively short snout and small incisors make stripping tree bark difficult, so it dines instead on insects and fungi. Dwelling in the mountainous regions of the southeastern Atlantic Forest in Brazil, its haggard face is set into a permanent grimace.

Other marmoset species, such as the common marmoset, are not only more photogenic, they’re also invading the buffy-tufted marmoset’s patch, where they’re hybridising with it, and pushing it to the brink of extinction. Add to that, there is the omnipresent threat of yellow fever, and the fact that 93 per cent of the marmoset’s native forest has been razed to make way for agriculture.

What’s really weird about the buffy-tufted marmoset is not its expression or its odd eating habits, but that so few people seem to know or care about it.

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Helen Pilcher
Helen PilcherScience writer, presenter and performer.

Helen Pilcher is a tea-drinking, biscuit-nibbling science and comedy writer, with a PhD in cell biology.


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