Coppery Titi, Plecturocebus cupreus
Geographic Distribution and Habitat
The coppery titi monkey, also called the red titi, is a New World monkey indigenous to northwest South America. They inhabit the Amazon forests of Peru and Brazil, and are mainly found in terra firme forests, often occupying the middle and lower canopy strata. They are rarely seen in várzea forests, which are common throughout the Amazon. They can tolerate short-term seasonal flooding and low levels of anthropogenic (man-made) disturbances.
Size, Weight, and Lifespan
Coppery titis are small monkeys. There is no sexual dimorphism in this species—males and females weigh about the same and are similar lengths. Both males and females weigh about 2.2 lb (1 kg). Their head-to-body length averages 13 in (33 cm) long and their furry tails can measure an additional one-third of their body length.
Titi monkeys can live into their early 20s. In captivity, both male and female titi monkeys have lived more than 25 years.
Coppery titis have coarse hair covering their entire body, except for their face. Their sideburns, underside, and legs are a burnt reddish color, giving them a coppery appearance. The upper and outer sides of their body and head are agouti in color; that is, their pelage is streaked with light and dark alternating bands that are reddish and brownish in color. Their forehead has the same coloration, except for the crown, which sometimes has a blackish fringe. Titi monkey species are often distinguished by the coloration of the hair across their foreheads.
Their hindlimbs are shorter than their forelimbs. Despite this, they use short leaps to move about the lower levels of the forest. Their long nonprehensile tails are used for balance as they travel.
Coppery titis are mainly frugivores (fruit-eaters), but also consume insects and other plant material. They spend around 75 percent of their feeding time eating over 100 different types of fruits, favoring soft fruits such as figs. The remainder of their feeding time is spent consuming leaves, flowers, and some insects. They eat more leaves during the dry season than they do during the wet season. When females are lactating, they double their intake of insects since the protein needs of females increase during this time.
Meal time is a social affair: individuals in a coppery titi family group may feed on the same food from the same source at the same time. They do not, however, feed in the same tree at the same time with other primate species.
Titis are diurnal and rise early in the morning and remain active until sunset. Depending on the season, the length of their daily activities varies. They rise before dawn during warmer months when more fruit is available, and stay in their sleeping site for up to four hours after sunrise in colder months, when fruits are harder to find.
Titi monkeys split their day into two main feedings sessions: once in the morning and once in the afternoon. These sessions are separated by a period of midday rest. The last few hours of the day are spent munching on leaves.
Coppery titis move through the lower levels of the canopy quadrupedally. Occasionally, they leap short distances—particularly in smaller trees and vine thickets. When titi monkeys are ready for sleep, they choose sites that are covered in leaves for added protection. Sleeping sites are located in vine tangles and covered in dense leaves on small branches about 50 ft (15 m) above the ground. Sometimes sleeping sites are reused. During sleep, group members remain close to one another—within 3 ft (1 m)—and huddle together with tails entwined.
Coppery titi monkeys have a monogamous mating system. Pairs bond for many years and can have up to three generations of offspring in their family group. A strong bond exists between the mated pair; they spend much of their time huddling, entwining their tails, and grooming. There may be occasional copulation with a partner outside of the family unit, but researchers have found that separation of the bonded pair can cause stress that is evidenced by increased heart rate, higher rate of locomotion, and high-pitched vocalizations.
A newly bonded pair begins duetting within the first day of becoming mates.
Each family group lives in a small distinct home range.
Titi monkeys live in the same habitats as a number of other primates including marmosets, squirrel monkeys, woolly monkeys, howler monkeys, spider monkeys, owl monkeys, saki monkeys, capuchins, and tamarins.
Coppery titi monkeys spend almost their entire day in the trees, only descending to the ground on rare occasions. Depending on the weather, their daily foraging range can be significantly shorter or longer, between 1,394 and 3,779 ft (425–1,152 m). In the dry season, when fruit is less available, their daily paths are reduced to conserve energy. Home ranges are rather small, from 0.002 mi² (0.005 km²) or smaller up to 0.08 mi² (0.2 km²).
There have not been many observations of dominance in either males or females, and both genders have been observed leading groups. The better part of their day is spent on social activities, such as grooming, tail entwining between pairs, and feeding. Bonded pairs defend their territory vocally by performing duets at the borders. Although aggression is uncommon, juveniles enjoy play-fighting with one another and with adults. This includes tail grabbing, chasing, parallel running, batting at each other, and gentle biting. At around 2 to 3 years of age, young adults leave their family group, which often results in the birth of a new offspring.
Coppery titi monkeys are highly vocal. When foraging, they use chirp calls, which consist of a pure tone with a frequency of 6 kilohertz. Other vocal elements include grunts, moans, screams, squeaks, whistles, and bellows. Bellows are common when pairs are participating in their duets, which are performed daily at or before sunrise for about five minutes. These duets are important for defining territorial boundaries between family groups. Neighboring pairs usually respond to duetting. Duets start with moaning and end with honking. Males typically bellow after moaning, while females pant during the bellows. The duet is only synchronized during the transition between sequences.
In addition, coppery titis have a very keen sense of smell and utilize olfactory communications. When two individuals come in contact with one another, they sniff each others’ face or other body parts. This is known as social sniffing, and occurs when two unfamiliar individuals are meeting for the first time. A male sniffs the genital region of the female he is bonded with to determine when she is sexually receptive.
Another olfactory communication method is chest rubbing. Males rub their chest on branches, spreading secretion from their sternal gland, to mark their territory.
Coppery titis also communicate via visual cues. A common display is an arched back—arched like a cat—which is followed by an attack or an escape. Tail-raising (raising the tail up and down) and tail-lashing (moving tail from side to side) are displayed during hostile encounters. When an individual is frustrated or indecisive, they perform a displacement scratch, in which they vigorously scratch their chest.
Social grooming is a form of tactile communication between groups and family members. This is common between adult males and adult females, and between adult males and their young. Tail entwining—when two individuals wrap their tails around each other’s, both during the day and while sleeping—is used to reinforce bonds and to balance one another.
Female coppery titis give birth to a single offspring once per year, between November and March. Family size can range from 2 to 5 individuals including the mated pair and up to 3 offspring. Unlike most primates, male titi monkeys are the primary carriers of their young. Just 48 hours after birth, males start to carry their young and continue to carry them on their backs for up to 6 months. They only hand them off to the mother for suckling. A study conducted in 1986 found that fathers carry their infants about 85 percent of the time. When the infant is hungry and ready to nurse, the father will sit close to the mother while the infant nurses.
Coppery titis are important for the biodiversity of their habitat since they disperse the seeds of the fruits they eat.
The coppery titi monkey is categorized as Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of Threatened Species (IUCN, 2015). Since they are located in a remote, isolated region, there are no immediate threats associated with this species. However, they are occasionally hunted for bushmeat. They are also hunted for their tails, which are used as dusters, and for the exotic pet trade.
Predators of coppery titi monkeys also pose a threat to their survival. Predators such as large birds or raptors and felids are capable of attacking titi monkeys.
Coppery titis are found in several protected areas throughout their range. In Brazil, they are found in indigenous reserves, biological reserves, and natural forests. In Peru, they are found in reserves such as Reserva Nacional Matses and Area de Conservación Regional Comunal Tamshiyacu-Tahuayo. This species is also listed on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Appendix II.
- Mendoza, SP and Mason, WA. 1986. Parental division of labour and differentiation of attachments in a monogamous primate (Callicebus moloch). Animal Behaviour. Vol. 34, 1336-1347.
Written by Tara Covert, February 2019