Callitrichids are cooperative breeders, characterized by obligate twinning, extensive paternal care, and monopolization of reproduction by the dominant female. This is the case in the common marmoset, and in common marmoset groups of more than one adult female, subordinate females are typically acyclic consistent with infertility. However, one callitrichid, Goeldi’s monkey, gives birth to singletonsand exhibits low paternal care. Given these reproductive traits of Goeldi’s monkey, we hypothesized that there would not be suppression of ovarian activity. To test this hypothesis, we applied non-invasive endocrine methods in a stepwise experiment with laboratory groups of both species. In each species, six pairs of sisters were studied alone, in visual contact with an unrelated male and in a polygynous trio with the male, and urine samples were collected for determination of oestrogen titres
reflecting ovarian activity. Common marmoset sister pairs exhibited a marked difference in social status: during the study 5 of 6 dominant females conceived but only 1 of 6 subordinate females; the remaining 5 subordinates were acyclic at the end of the study, and instances of
ovulation typically resulted in aggression. Goeldi’s monkey sister pairs showed no status differences: in all pairs, however, both sisters exhibited a temporary cessation of ovarian cyclicity on trio formation, followed by ovulation and conception. We conclude that these marked differences in ovarian responses reflect the differences in inter-female competition for paternal caregiving resources. In common marmosets with high inter-female competition,
suppression of ovulation functions to reduce aggression received by subordinate females; in Goeldi’s monkey with low competition, temporary cessation of ovulation could facilitate female choice.