Squirrel Monkey (Saimiri sciureus)

When we think of monkeys, we picture long-tailed creatures swinging high in the trees with acrobatic ease. Squirrel Monkeys don’t exactly fit that description. In fact these monkeys avoid the treetops because they are extremely vulnerable prey to the large birds there. They prefer to spend more time on the ground than any other monkey in the western hemisphere.

Some species of Squirrel Monkeys live in Central America, but most make their homes in the tropical rainforests of South America. Their preferred foraging range is in the middle canopy layer of the rainforests.

A white mask is part of the Squirrel Monkey’s identity. This ten to fourteen inch tall adult monkey has no tail to assist in its passage through the trees. Its extremely dexterous fingers may make up for the missing tail. Squirrel Monkeys spend more time on the ground than any other type of monkey found in the western hemisphere.

Soft fruit spells feast time to the Squirrel Monkeys. To balance out their diet, the monkeys will also eat nuts, berries flowers, seeds, leaves and gum from tress.

The male Squirrel Monkeys spend a lot of time fighting for dominance among their peers, but it doesn’t always benefit them in mating season. The female doesn’t seem to be impressed by all the fuss, and doesn’t necessarily choose to mate with the dominant male. One hundred fifty-two to one hundred seventy-two days after the dry season mating time, she will give birth to a tiny. She will be the primary caregiver, but other female monkeys may be called upon to “monkey-sit”. While mother monkeys nurse their young, they don’t welcome male monkeys. In fact the male monkey who ventures too near will be aggressively chased away.

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Squirrel monkeys choose capuchin monkeys for neighbors. This choice isn’t due to the desire for easy to get along with neighbors, but because the capuchin monkeys set up great alarms when danger is near. Once the danger call has been given, Squirrel Monkeys scatter for cover. They aren’t a very aggressive species.

Did you know?

Squirrel Monkeys live to be twenty-five years old.

Twenty-four percent of Squirrel Monkeys have tested positive for Malaria.

Squirrel Monkeys are captured and used for medical studies.

Outside of mating season, female Squirrel Monkeys are dominant and the males tend to ignore them.

Squirrel Monkeys communicate in twenty-six different calls.

Natives hunt Squirrel Monkeys for food.

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