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Cotton-top Tamarins Parent Cooperatively

Are you my mother? It's kind of a moot point in cotton-top tamarin world.

Martina Berg/iStock/Thinkstock

It's impossible to resist an animal that has hair resembling Doc Brown in "Back to the Future," and cotton-top tamarins are no exception. Cute primate appearance aside, these fluffy tamarins also are surprisingly adept at parenting.

In fact, tamarins parent cooperatively, meaning that there is no primary caregiver. All the males and females in a social group provide resources and food for the tamarin babies. And it is babies, plural: Cotton-top tamarins have twins more often than single babies, and it's not easy to carry both little ones at a time. Besides the first week of life when the babies must nurse constantly, other group members are just as responsible as the mother for taking care of the little ones [source: Lang].

It helps that only one female at a time is reproducing, so everyone can chip in to help. But this in itself is another surprising thing that animals do with their kids: It seems that the dominant female in cotton-top tamarin groups will suppress reproduction in other females to ensure only one pregnancy at a time. Keep in mind that the other females are often her daughters, thus keeping her superiority as a dominant mom intact.

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