Squirrel Monkey

This squirrel monkey is found in the tropical forests of Central and South America. It can mea...

This squirrel monkey is found in the tropical forests of Central and South America. It can measure as little as 25 cm from head to the top of its tail! Squirrel monkeys are highly intelligent and have excellent color vision, which is studied by scientists as a model for human vision. Fun Fact: Female squirrel monkeys have a pseudo-penis that they use to display dominance over smaller monkeys, in much the same way the male squirrel monkeys display their dominance.

Like most of their New World monkey relatives, squirrel monkeys are diurnal and arboreal. Unlike the other New World monkeys, their tail is not used for climbing, but as a kind of "balancing pole" and also as a tool. Their movements in the branches can be very rapid.

They live together in multi-male/multi-female groups with up to 500 members. These large groups can, however occasionally break into smaller troops. They have a number of vocal calls, including warning sounds to protect themselves from large falcons, which are a natural threat to them. Their small body size also makes them susceptible to predators such as snakes and felids. For marking territory, squirrel monkeys rub their tail and their skin with their own urine.

Squirrel monkeys are omnivores, eating primarily fruits and insects. Occasionally they also eat seeds, leaves, flowers, buds, nuts, eggs and small vertebrates. The mating of the squirrel monkeys is subject to seasonal influences. Females give birth to young during the rainy season, after a 150- to 170-day gestation. The mothers exclusively care for the young. Saimiri oerstedti are weaned by 4 months of age, while S. boliviensis are not fully weaned until 18 months old. Female squirrel monkeys reach sexual maturity at age 2-2.5 years, while males take until age 3.5-4 years old. They live to about 15 years old in the wild, and over 20 years in captivity. Menopause in females probably occurs in the mid-teens.


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