Let's Use a Dichotomous Key to Identify Tamarin Monkey Species


Physically adapted to living primarily or exclusively in trees.

Native or restricted to a certain area or country.

Genus (plural, genera):
A biological classification, or ranking, of living beings that includes a group(s) of species that are structurally similar or “related” to one another through evolution.

A group of living organisms (animals) consisting of similar individuals capable of exchanging genes or interbreeding. The species is the principal natural taxonomic unit, ranking below a genus.

A population usually restricted to a geographical area that differs from other populations of the same species, but not to the extent of being classified as a separate species.

The Dichotomous Key

  • In the photo array below, you’ll see six tamarin specimens. Let’s see if you can determine their species by using the dichotomous key below.

Start by looking closely at each photo in the array. 

Observe the defining physical characteristics of each species. For example: 

  • What color is their coat?
  • Do they have any outstanding markings or features?
  • How do facial characteristics differ among the specimens?

Now, let’s use the dichotomous key to identify each specimen.

Instructions for following the Tamarin Dichotomous Key

  1. Begin at Step 1 for each tamarin.
  2. Read choices a and b.
  3. Determine which statement is correct for that tamarin. 
  4. The statement will either identify the correct tamarin species or send you to another step. 

Species 1


Read statements 1a. and 1b.

1a. The tamarin has a fluffy hairdo: Go to Step 2

1b. The tamarin does not have a fluffy hairdo: Go to Step 3

Species 1 DOES have a fluffy hairdo. Let’s go to Step 2.

Read statements 2a. and 2b.

2a. The species is multicolored: Go to Step 4.

2b. The tamarin is not multi-colored: This is a golden-lion tamarin.

Species 1 is NOT multicolored. 

Congratulations! You have identified a golden lion tamarin (Leontopithecus rosalia).


Common names are not officially defined. They are based on everyday conversational language and may differ by country, region, profession, community, or other factors. As a result, it is not unusual for a species to have multiple common names.

Scientific names, on the other hand, are standardized and constant. They are Latinized and rule-bound by a formal naming system called binomial nomenclature. Scientific names prevent misidentification. They typically only change if a species is officially redesignated.

Let’s try another one together…Species 5

Species 5

Read statements 1a. and 1b:

1a. The tamarin has a fluffy hairdo.

1b. The tamarin does not have a fluffy hairdo.

Species 5 DOES NOT have a fluffy hairdo. Let’s go to Step 3.

Read statements 3a. and 3b.

3a. The tamarin has red hands.

3b. The tamarin does not have red hands.

Species 5 DOES NOT have red hands. Let’s to go to Step 4. 

Read statments 4a. and 4b.

4a. The tamarin has a large mustache.

4b. The tamarin does not have a large mustache.

Species 5 DOES NOT have a large mustache, so let’s got to Step 5. 

And, finally, read statements 5a. and 5b.

5a. The tamarin has a mohawk hairdo.

5b. The tamarin does not have a mohawk hairdo.

Species 5 DOES have a mohawk hairdo. 

Congratulations! You have identified a Geoffroy’s tamarin (Saguinus geoffroyi).

Now it’s your turn. Use the dichotomous key to identify Species 2, 3, 4, and 6 on your own!

When you’re finished, click the button below to view another way to reveal this dichotomous key.

This works best AFTER you’ve completed the dichotomous key exercises for species 2, 3, 4, and 6.

Dichotomouse Key Chart Identifying Tamarin Species

The answer key is to check your accuracy AFTER you’ve solved your tamarin species dichotomous key. No cheating! 

Copyright © New England Primate Conservancy 2022. You may freely use, copy and share these Learning Activities for educational purposes. 
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