By forming larger sizes of groups, individuals benefit from a decrease in vigilance, but the collective vigilance of the group as a whole is not compromised. We examined whether this group size effect is apparent in mixed-species groups of red-bellied tamarins (S. labiatus) and saddleback tamarins (S. fuscicollis) which form stable and permanent associations in the wild. We studied general vigilance and responses to hidden threatening stimuli in five captive groups of each species, while they were housed in single- and mixed-species groups. For vigilance, the individual rate was lower in the larger mixed-species groups than in the smaller single-species groups. In addition, the amount of time when at least one individual was vigilant was higher in mixed-species groups. This suggests that the tamarins alter their vigilance behavior in the presence of the other species. In response to hidden threats, both species performed brief vigilance checks and frequencies of checking did not differ in single- and mixed-species groups. However, both species had a significant reduction in the mean duration per check, and there was a reduced total amount of time spent vigilance checking in the mixed-species groups compared to the single-species groups, demonstrating the group size effect. Overall, the mixed-species groups had a higher number and mean duration of checking than the smaller single-species groups. Given that the two species share a common set of predators, and respond to each other's alarm calls, these findings provide strong evidence that individuals of both tamarin species may be able to benefit from forming mixed-species groups via improved vigilance and monitoring of threats.
- Polyspecific associations
- Mixed-species groups