The common marmoset, also known as Callithrix jacchus, is arboreal small-bodied Neotropical primates. Recently, there has been increasing interest in the use of marmosets as an experimental primate model for modern biological and medical research due to their close phylogenetic relationship with humans.
The common marmosets (Callithrix jacchus) are New World monkeys that are endemic to Northeast Brazil and occur in contrasting environments such as the humid Atlantic Forest and the dry scrub forest of the Caatinga. The adult common marmoset is characterized by black and gray fur with white spots on the forehead and typical white ear tufts. These last two features are not present in infants and are not fully apparent in early adolescents. They weigh about 322 g in the wild and weigh about 350-450 g in captivity. The adult individual's tail can reach 28 cm and help the monkey to self-balance when locomoting on the branch. Common marmosets live in a cohesive social group of about 3-15 individuals who are highly tolerant of one another. The general behavioral characteristics consist of resting, grooming, gummivory, locomoting, foraging, feeding, scent marking, vocalization, playing.
Recently, the common marmoset has gained interest as an animal model for systems and behavioral neuroscience. This is partly due to the advent of transgenic marmosets, which affords the possibility of combining genetic manipulations with physiological recording and behavioral monitoring to study neural systems. They've been genetically engineered to make their brains easier to image and to serve as important models for studying neurological diseases, especially neurodegenerative diseases, including Parkinson's disease, Huntington's disease, Alzheimer's disease, and multiple sclerosis. In addition, like many other primates, marmosets are diurnal animals and have highly developed visual abilities. They can be trained to perform basic visual tasks when head-fixed, which is crucial for precise eye tracking and many standard electrophysiological techniques. These characters make them valuable animal models in vision research. Another application the marmosets is in brain research, which has the distinct advantage of living in family groups and exhibiting sophisticated social behavior. The marmosets also provide an excellent model for the investigation of postnatal development during childhood and parental behavior.
The common marmoset has become as important as macaques as an experimental primate model for modern biological and medical research. There are many reasons for this: 1) the marmosets are small enough to handle easily and require less cost and skillfulness in their maintenance and experiments; 2) breeding in laboratories is very effective; 3) their gestation period is about 5 months, and twins or triplets are usual; 4) their postnatal development is rapid, approximately 18 months; 5) no fatal zoonotic diseases that could be transmitted from marmosets to humans; 6) their brain structure, including cortical organization, is very similar to humans and their cortex is lissencephalic and thus easy to target.
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