Spider monkeys are New World primates that inhabit the rainforest regions of South America, Central America and Mexico. Their diet includes spiders, fruit, bird eggs, leaves and nuts. They live to be about 22 years old in the wild, on average.
Scientific & Common Names
Kingdom - Animalia
Phylum - Chordata
Class - Mammalia
Order - Primates
Suborder - Haplorhini
Family - Atelidae
Subfamily - Atelinae
Genus - Atelus
Species & Common Names - There are several species of spider monkeys, including Ateles belzebuth (white-bellied spider monkey), Ateles paniscus (black or Guiana spider monkey), Ateles geoffroyi (Central American or Geoffrey’s spider monkey), Ateles fusciceps (brown-headed spider monkey) and Ateles hybridus (brown or variegated spider monkey).
The size and coloring of spider monkeys depend on their species. Overall, they range in size from 14 to 26 inches and weigh an average of 13.25 pounds. Some species have distinctive markings, such as a triangular patch of white fur on the face. In general, their coloring ranges from light brown to reddish brown to jet black. Their long arms and tail allow them to easily climb from one branch to another.
Spider monkeys have a low reproductive rate. Females typically give birth to one offspring, with gaps of two to five years between births. Their gestation period is around 7.5 months, although this varies slightly depending on the species. Mothers take care of their offspring for about one year, although young spider monkeys are able to start exploring by themselves when they’re about 10 weeks old.
Spider monkeys spend much of their time in trees in social groups of up to 36 individuals. They form smaller groups of six or so to go foraging for food during the day or to sleep at night. Spider monkeys communicate through loud vocalizations, such as screeches and barks. Some species, such as the black spider monkey, also communicate through visual signals, such as throwing items or scratching their chests.
The historical range of spider monkeys includes the South American countries of Brazil, Ecuador and Colombia, the Central American countries of Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Guatemala and parts of Mexico. This range has been getting smaller due to deforestation and logging.
Many spider monkey species are listed as Endangered, including Geoffrey’s spider monkey, the white-bellied spider monkey and the black-faced black spider monkey. The black or Guiana spider monkey is currently listed as Vulnerable, while the brown-headed spider monkey and brown or variegated spider monkey are both listed as Critically Endangered. The main threats to spider monkeys are habitat loss and hunting.