Spider monkey

Spider monkey

name = Spider monkeysMSW3 Groves|pages=150-151]

image_caption = Black-headed Spider Monkey ("Ateles fusciceps")
regnum = Animalia
phylum = Chordata
classis = Mammalia
ordo = Primates
familia = Atelidae
subfamilia = Atelinae
genus = "Ateles"
genus_authority = E. Geoffroy, 1806
type_species = "Simia paniscus"
type_species_authority = Linnaeus, 1758
subdivision_ranks = Species
subdivision = "Ateles paniscus" "Ateles belzebuth" "Ateles chamek" "Ateles hybridus" "Ateles marginatus" "Ateles fusciceps" "Ateles geoffroyi"

Spider monkeys are New World monkeys of the family Atelidae, subfamily Atelinae. Found in tropical forests from southern Mexico to Brazil, spider monkeys belong to the genus "Ateles"; the closely related woolly spider monkeys, are in the genus "Brachyteles".

As they require large tracts of undisturbed forest and specialize on ripe fruits, spider monkeys may be considered an indicator species; the monkeys are threatened by habitat destruction through continued growth in South American agriculture.

A recent comparative intelligence study gives spider monkeys a value a little above gorillas, so it is reasonable to believe that spider monkeys are among the most intelligent New World monkeys. [cite web | url = http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article1654998.ece | work = The Times | title = Chimps knocked off the top of the IQ tree | accessdate = 2007-06-15]

Physical description

Disproportionately long, spindly limbs inspired the spider monkey's common name. Their deftly prehensile tails, which may be up to 89 cm (35 inches) long, have very flexible, hairless tips and skin grooves similar to fingerprints. This adaptation to the spider monkey's strictly arboreal lifestyle serves as a fifth hand. Adults reach an average body length of 50 cm (20 inches) and a weight of 6.4 kilograms (14 pounds).

The arms are very thin and very long, while the legs are shorter. When the monkey walks, its arms practically drag on the ground. Unlike many monkeys, they don't use their arms for balance when walking, instead relying on their tail. The hands are long, narrow and hook-like, and have no thumbs.huh The fingers are elongated and recurved.

The hair is coarse, ranging in colour from ruddy gold to brown and black; the hands and feet are usually black. Heads are small with hairless faces. The nostrils are very far apart, which is a distinguishing feature of spider monkeys. [cite web | url = http://www.honoluluzoo.org/spider_monkey.htm | work = Honolulu Zoo | title = Spider Monkey | accessdate = 2008-04-07] [cite web | url =http://www.animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Ateles_geoffroyi.html | work = Animal Diversity Web | title = Ateles geoffroyi | accessdate = 2007-10-02] The unusually long labia in females may be mistaken for a penis; its function is unclear.

Spider monkeys are highly agile; they are said to be second only to the gibbons in this respect.

There is speculation that the alleged Loys's Ape is a large spider monkey, but this is still intensely debated by cryptozoologists.


Spider monkeys form loose groups of 15-25 individuals. During the day, groups break up into subgroups of 2-8 individuals. This social structure ('fission-fusion') is found in only one other primate species, the Chimpanzee. The size of subgroups and the degree to which they avoid each other during the day depends on food competition and the risk of predation. Also less common in primates, females rather than males disperse at puberty to join new groups. Males tend to stick together for their whole life. Hence males in a group are more likely to be related and have closer bonds than females. The strongest social bonds are formed between females and young offspring.

Spider monkeys communicate their intentions and observations using postures and stances, such as postures of sexual receptivity and of attack. When a spider monkey sees a human approaching, it barks loudly similar to a small dog. When a monkey is approached, it climbs to the end of the branch it is on and shakes it vigorously to scare away the possible threat. It shakes the branches with its feet, hands, or a combination while hanging from its tail. It may also scratch its limbs or body with various parts of its hands and feet. Seated monkeys may sway and make noise. Males and occasionally adult females growl menacingly at the approach of a human. If the pursuer continues to advance, the monkeys often break off live or dead tree limb weighing up to 10 pounds and drop them towards the intruder. They do not actually throw the branches but they twist so the branch causing it to fall closer to the threat.huh The natives of the area know very well of this risk. The monkeys also defecate and urinate toward the intruder.

Spider monkeys are diurnal and spend the night sleeping in carefully selected trees. Groups are thought to be directed by a lead female who is responsible for planning an efficient feeding route each day. Grooming is not as important to social interaction, due perhaps to a lack of thumbs.

At 107 grams, the spider monkey brain is twice the size of a howler monkey's of equivalent body size; this is thought to be a result of the spider monkeys' complex social system and their frugivorous diet, which consists primarily of ripe fruit from a wide variety (over 150 species) of plants and this requires the monkeys to remember when and where fruit can be found. The slow development may also play a role: the monkeys may live 20 years or more, and females give birth once every 3-4 years.


The diet of spider monkeys consists of about 90% fruits and nuts. They can live for long periods on only one or two kinds of fruits and nuts. They eat the fruits of many big forest trees, and because they swallow fruits whole, the seeds are eventually excreted and fertilized by the feces. Most feeding happens from dawn to 10am. Afterwards the adults rest while the young play. Through the rest of the day they may feed infrequently until around 10pm. If food is low they may eat insects, bark or rotting forest, and honey.

Spider monkeys have a unique way of getting food: a lead female is responsible for feeding. If she cannot find enough food for the group, it splits into smaller groups to find food easier. [cite web | url = http://www.zooschool.ecsd.net/spider%20monkey.htm | work = Zoo School| title = Spider Monkey: Cebidae Anteles Geoffroyi geoffroyi | accessdate = 2007-10-09] The traveling groups have four and nine individuals. Each group is closely associated with its territory. [cite web| last =Gordon | first = Nick | url = http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/animals/features/192index.shtml | work = BBC Wildlife Magazine – Monkey business | title = The Spider Monkey and the Rainforest | accessdate = 2007-10-05] If the group is big, it spreads out while eating.


Spider monkeys mate year-round. The female chooses a male from her group with whom to mate. Both males and females sniff their mates to check their readiness for copulation. This process is known as “anogenital sniffing”. The gestation period ranges from 226 to 232 days. Each female bears only one offspring on average, every 3-4 years.

Till age six to ten months, infants rely completely on their mother.cite journal| last =Carpenter | first = C.R. | url = http://links.jstor.org/sici?sici=0022-2372%28193508%2916%3A3%3C171%3ABORSMI%3E2.0.CO%3B2-L | journal = Journal of Mammalogy | volume = 16| issue =No. 3 | date = Aug. 1935 | pages = 171–180 | work = | title = Behavior of Red Spider Monkeys in Panama| month = Aug| year = 1935| doi = 10.2307/1374442] Males are not involved in raising the offspring.

A mother carries her infant around her belly for the first month after birth. After this she carries it on her lower back. The infant wraps its tail around its mother’s and tightly grabs her midsection. Mothers are very protective of their young and are generally good mothers. They have been seen grabbing their young and putting them on their backs for protection and to help them navigate from tree to tree. They help the more independent young to cross by pulling branches closer together. Mothers also groom their young.

In popular culture

A parody of the practice of hunting and eating bush meat appeared in "The Onion" in 2005, which references an alleged spider monkey species, the "Ateles saporis", as "the delicacy ape"."New, Delicious Species Discovered," "The Onion", May 18, 2005, found at [http://www.theonion.com/content/news/new_delicious_species_discovered The Onion website. Accessed August 22, 2008.] The article satirizes this cuisine with descriptions of grilling the meat, or serving it as sashimi.


* Family Atelidae
** Subfamily Alouattinae
** Subfamily Atelinae
*** Genus "Ateles"
**** Red-faced Spider Monkey, "Ateles paniscus"
**** White-fronted Spider Monkey, "Ateles belzebuth"
**** Peruvian Spider Monkey, "Ateles chamek"
**** Brown Spider Monkey, "Ateles hybridus"
**** White-cheeked Spider Monkey, "Ateles marginatus"
**** Black-headed Spider Monkey, "Ateles fusciceps"
***** Brown-headed Spider Monkey, "Ateles fusciceps fusciceps"
***** Colombian Spider Monkey, "Ateles fusciceps rufiventris"
**** Geoffroy's Spider Monkey, "Ateles geoffroyi"
***** Yucatan Spider Monkey, "Ateles geoffroyi yucatanensis"
***** Mexican Spider Monkey, "Ateles geoffroyi vellerosus"
***** "Ateles geoffroyi geoffroyi"
***** Ornate Spider Monkey, "Ateles geoffroyi ornatus"
***** Hooded Spider Monkey, "Ateles geoffroyi grisescens"
*** Genus "Brachyteles"
*** Genus "Lagothrix"
*** Genus "Oreonax"


External links

* [http://members.tripod.com/uakari/ateles_paniscus.html Black Spider Monkey (Ateles paniscus)]
* [http://pin.primate.wisc.edu/factsheets/links/ateles Primate Info Net "Ateles" Factsheets]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Spider monkey — Spider Spi der, n.[OE. spi[thorn]re, fr. AS. spinnan to spin; so named from spinning its web; cf. D. spin a spider, G. spinne, Sw. spindel. See {Spin}.] 1. (Zo[ o]l.) Any one of numerous species of arachnids comprising the order Araneina. Spiders …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • spider monkey — n. any of a genus (Ateles, family Cebidae) of New World monkeys with long, spidery limbs, a long, prehensile tail, and the thumb rudimentary or absent …   English World dictionary

  • spider monkey — any of several tropical American monkeys of the genus Ateles, having a slender body, long, slender limbs, and a long, prehensile tail: some are endangered. [1755 65] * * * Any of four species (family Cebidae) of diurnal, arboreal New World… …   Universalium

  • Spider monkey (disambiguation) — Spidermonkey can refer to:* Spider monkey, found in the tropical forests of Mexico and Brazil. * SpiderMonkey (taxonomy editor), the XBRL taxonomy editor developed by CoreFiling Ltd. * SpiderMonkey (JavaScript engine), the code name for the first …   Wikipedia

  • spider monkey — noun arboreal monkey of tropical America with long slender legs and long prehensile tail • Syn: ↑Ateles geoffroyi • Hypernyms: ↑New World monkey, ↑platyrrhine, ↑platyrrhinian • Member Holonyms: ↑Ateles, ↑ …   Useful english dictionary

  • spider monkey — noun Any New World monkey of the genus Ateles, with long, spindly limbs …   Wiktionary

  • spider monkey — noun a South American monkey with very long limbs and a long prehensile tail. [Genus Brachyteles: four species.] …   English new terms dictionary

  • spider monkey — spi′der mon key n. mam any slender, long limbed tropical American monkey of the genus Ateles, with a long, prehensile tail • Etymology: 1755–65 …   From formal English to slang

  • spider monkey — noun Date: 1764 any of a genus (Ateles) of New World monkeys with long slender limbs, the thumb absent or rudimentary, and a very long prehensile tail …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • spider monkey — /ˈspaɪdə mʌŋki/ (say spuyduh mungkee) noun any of various acrobatic monkeys of tropical America, genera Ateles, with a slender body, long slender limbs, and a long prehensile tail …  

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