Stay golden!

With a plush mane of vibrant orange fur, the resemblance of the golden lion tamarin (Leontopithecus rosalia) to an actual lion stops there. While the golden lion tamarin is the largest of the four tamarins species, adult monkeys are only 15-25 centimeters tall and weigh around 400-800 grams [1]. Native to the coastal forests of Eastern Brazil, the wild population of golden lion tamarins has deceased due to drastic habitat loss. A survey in 2018 found the wild population to be around 3,200 individuals [2]. Thanks to breeding and reintroduction programs at zoos around the world, this number has risen from the previous estimate of 1,400 individuals in 2015.

Golden lion tamarin by Tambako the Jaguar, [CC BY-ND 2.0], via flickr.com

Golden lion tamarins live in troops of 2-8 monkeys, consisting of a breeding pair and their offspring. The commonly give birth to twins, occasionally having triplets and quadruplets [3]. They're very vocal, communicating with each other via chirps, screams, and yelps. In the wild, golden lion tamarins will sleep in new dens in hollow trees every night. This is likely a survival tactic to prevent predators from tracking them [4].


Today, we release the genome assembly of the golden lion tamarin, Leontopithecus rosalia. This is a $1K genome assembly with a scaffold N50 = 121 Mb and a contig N50 = 56 Kb. For assembly procedure details, please see our Methods page. Many thanks Coari from the Houston Zoo for providing the sample for this genome assembly. Read more about Coari and her partner Zuno in this blog post by the Houston Zoo!


Check out below how the chromosomes in the new assembly relate to those of the white-tufted-ear marmoset Callithrix jacchus and human. For comparison with the marmoset we used the recent genome assembly from McDonnell Genome Institute at Washington University, here, and the human genome assembly used is hg38 (GRCh38.p13), by the Genome Reference Consortium.

Whole-genome alignment plots between the golden lion tamarin chromosome-length genome assembly (Leontopithecus_rosalia_HiC) and that of the white-tufted-ear marmoset (Callithrix_jacchus_cj1700_1.1).
Whole-genome alignment plots between the golden lion tamarin chromosome-length genome assembly (Leontopithecus_rosalia_HiC) and the human genome (GRCh38).

This is the 11th primate genome the DNA Zoo has released! Interested in more New World primates? Check out, e.g., the assembly pages for the pygmy marmoset and the Bolivian squirrel monkey.

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