SQUIRREL MONKEYS AND CAPUCHINS FACTS
Cebids (members of the family Cebidae, including squirrel monkeys and capuchins) have round heads, forward-facing eyes, rounded snouts, and small ears. Squirrel monkeys are the smallest cebids. They have a slim body with a dense, soft fur that is gray to black on the crown of the head. The body may be yellow, golden, or reddish. The shoulders are gray to olive, and the underparts are white to yellow. The forearms, hands, and feet are yellow to golden. The furry tail has a black tip.
Capuchins have a heavy body build. The face is covered with short fur, while the rest of the body has longer fur. Color ranges from black to brown to yellowish beige. The chest and shoulders have patches of white, and the underparts are light-colored. The tail is usually coiled at the tip, earning it the nickname ringtail monkey.
Squirrel monkeys are found in most of South America and in Central America (just Costa Rica and Panama). Capuchins are found in most of South America and Central America and the Caribbean islands of Trinidad and Tobago.
SQUIRREL MONKEYS AND CAPUCHINS HABITAT
Cebids are found in the spreading forest canopy and in smaller understory trees. Squirrel monkeys also inhabit swamps, while capuchins thrive in dry forests.
SQUIRREL MONKEYS AND CAPUCHINS DIET
Squirrel monkeys eat predominantly fruits and insects, but also feed on flowers, shoots, buds, leaves, spiders, frogs, bats, and crabs. Capuchins consume mainly fruits, but also eat insects, snails, lizards, small birds, baby squirrels, crabs, and oysters.
BEHAVIOR AND REPRODUCTION
Cebids are arboreal (tree-dwelling) and diurnal (active during the day). They form large groups headed by a dominant male. Capuchin groups have a dominant female that submits only to the dominant male. The dominant male defends his group but does not try to control the members. Squirrel monkey groups, on the other hand, may or may not have dominant females, depending on the species. However, only the dominant male mates with the receptive females. Nevertheless, all cebids, males and females, have several partners. Females have a single infant, which keeps a close relationship to its mother. Fathers do not share in childrearing. Cebids use vocalizations to communicate. They urinate on their hands, then rub them on their fur and feet to scent mark territory. This behavior is called urine washing.
CEBIDS AND PEOPLE
Cebids are popular as pets and zoo exhibit animals. They are used in medical research. They have been used in the space program to test the effects of space travel. Capuchins are trained to help disabled persons, using their human-like hands to perform daily tasks, such as feeding people.
IUCN lists the yellow-breasted capuchin as Critically Endangered, facing an extremely high risk of extinction, because of habitat loss and degradation, and hunting for food. It classifies the red-backed squirrel monkey as Endangered, facing a very high risk of extinction, and the black squirrel monkey and the crested capuchin as Vulnerable, facing a high risk of extinction, due to habitat loss and degradation.