1 The Importance of Genetics in Conservation

Though direct observation of animals is important and can answer some interesting scientific questions, genetics can offer some surprises by giving us information that could not be observed.  In this activity, students will evaluate data via a pedigree for golden lion tamarins and come to some conclusions on why the use of genetics in conservation is so critical.

A note about this species…

Golden lion tamarins, Leontopithecus rosalia, is a small New World monkey in the family Callitrichidae.  They are approximately 8 inches tall with a 12 inch tail.  This monkey lives primarily in family groups where males help to raise their young, usually born in pairs (twins). Tamarins are arboreal and reside in tree hollows at night.   This species is diurnal and forage throughout the trees looking for fruits and small animals like insects, lizards, and the chicks of birds.  These tamarins are critically endangered, as Brazil's Atlantic coastal rain forests where they call home are rapidly disappearing due to deforestation for agriculture and industry.  Zoos have been successful at propagating a genetically diverse population and some have even been reintroduced to protected areas in Brazil.

Golden Lion Tamarins

ACTIVITY 1 – The Importance of Genetics in Conservation (pdf file)

VIDEO 1 – Zoo Genetics Section 1 Tamarins