Olfactory communication is an important mediator of social interactions in mammals, thought to provide information about an individual’s identity and current social, reproductive, and health status. In comparison with other taxa such as carnivores and rodents, few studies have examined primate olfactory communication. Tamarins (Callitrichidae) conspicuously deposit odorous secretions, produced by specialized scent glands, in their environment. In this study, we combined behavioral and chemical data on captive cotton-top tamarins, Saguinus oedipus, and bearded emperor tamarins, S. imperator subgrisescens, to examine the role of olfactory communication in the advertisement of species, sex, and reproductive status. We observed no difference in scent-marking behavior between species; however, females marked more frequently than males, and reproductive individuals more than non-reproductive ones. In addition, tamarins predominantly used their anogenital gland when scent-marking, followed by the suprapubic gland. We collected swabs of naturally deposited tamarin anogenital scent marks, and analyzed these samples using headspace gas chromatography-mass spectrometry. Despite a limited sample size, we established differences in tamarin anogenital mark chemical composition between species, sex and reproductive status, and identified 41 compounds. The compounds identified, many of which have been reported in previous work on mammalian semiochemistry, form targets for future bioassay studies to identify semiochemicals. Our non-invasive method for collecting deposited scent marks makes it a promising method for the study of olfactory communication in scent-marking animal species, applicable to field settings and for the study of elusive animals.

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