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Charles T. Snowdon

Hilldale Professor of Psychology and Zoology
University of Wisconsin, Madison

Social Neuroscience of Cooperatively Breeding Primates

Monday, May 9, 2011
Science 1 room 149, 5:00 PM


Cooperatively breeding species are those where multiple caregivers are involved in infant care. This is a common breeding system in marmosets and tamarins small primates of the Neotropics. I will show that multiple caregivers are essential for infant survival not only in the field but in captivity. I will also present findings on hormonal and behavioral mechanisms that underlie formation and maintenance of a strong pair bond between mates as well as mechanisms that induce changes in behavior and hormones in fathers during the mate’s pregnancy that lead to successful infant care. I will also present some neuroimaging data on how male monkeys respond to cues from females. I will also examine how non-reproductive caregivers are reproductively suppressed and rewarded by parents for involvement infant care. I will also show how multiple caregivers serve as buffers to individual variation in infant caregiving providing a constant quality of infant care to all infants. Humans are also said to be cooperative breeders, and we have started research on behavioral and hormonal influences in humans. I will present some preliminary data on correlates of human pair bonding.


I was born in Pittsburgh and attended Oberlin College and then did my graduate work at the University of Pennsylvania. My first and only job was at the University of Wisconsin, Madison where I have been since 1969. My original work was on neural controls of feeding behavior in rats but I discovered cooperatively breeding monkeys purely by accident and have been studying their vocal and chemical communication signals, their reproductive behavioral biology, social development, cognition and social learning and neuroendocrinology for more than 30 years.  I have done both field and captive work and have been fortunate to be able to supervise many field students working on species as diverse as right whales off the coast of Argentina, to mountain  gorillas in Rwanda and chimpanzees in Tanzania to marmosets and tamarins in Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Brazil. In my spare time I teach Scottish country dance and enjoy mystery novels.


  • Snowdon, C. T. & Ziegler, T. E. (2007) Growing up cooperatively: Family processes and infant development in marmosets and tamarins. Journal of Developmental Processes 2: 40-66. [PDF]
  • Snowdon, C. T., Pieper, B. A, Boe, C. Y., Cronin, K. A. Kurian, A. V. & Ziegler, T. E. (2010) Variation in oxytocin levels is associated with variation in affiliative behavior in  monogamous pairbonded tamarins, Hormones and Behavior, 58, 614-618. [PDF]
  • Snowdon, C. T.  (in press) Behavioral and neuroendocrine interactions in affiliation, in R. W. Sussman and R. L. Cloninger (eds.) Origins of Altruism and Cooperation, Elsevier Publishing. [PDF]


Seminar Recording:

Evolution Podcast:

Interview with Chuck

Poster (PDF):