Spider monkeys are a member of the primitive monkeys of the New World. There are seven different species of spider monkeys that live in Central and South America and in northern parts of Mexico. Spider monkeys live in wet and dense tropical rainforests. The number of spider monkeys is constantly decreasing because of the habitat loss, intense deforestation, hunting (indigenous people eat the meat of spider monkeys), and pet trade. The black-headed spider monkey, woolly spider monkey, and brown spider monkey are listed as critically endangered animals. The black-handed spider monkey is also considered endangered and they are classified as vulnerable.
The size of the spider monkey depends on the species. On average, spider monkeys reach 13.25 pounds in weight, 2 feet in length and 3-5 feet in height.
Spider monkeys spend their lives in the treetops of forests, and they are rarely seen on the ground. Spider monkeys were so named because they hang from the trees by holding branches with their limbs and long tails, shaped like spiders. Spider monkeys do not have a thumb. Their four fingers are curved and look like a hook, which is special adaptation to the life in the forest. Spider monkeys eat mainly plant-based food. 90% of their diet consists of fruit, seeds, nuts and flowers. Other than that, spider monkeys will eat bird’s eggs and insects.
Spider monkeys are very social animals. They live in groups called “troops” and they are active during the day. When different troops of spider monkeys meet, they hug each other to express greetings and avoid confrontation. During the night, spider monkeys gather in large groups and sleep in the trees, where they are safe from the predators. Main predators of spider monkeys are jaguars, pumas, ocelots, and large snakes.
Spider monkeys use different sounds for communication. They can produce screams and sobbing sounds, or even bark when they are threatened. They can be noisy animals and they communicate with many calls, screeches, barks, and other sounds. Spider monkeys do not have a specifically determined mating season. Females reach sexual maturity at the age of 4, males at the age of 5. Female spider monkeys produce offspring every 3 to 4 years. Pregnancy lasts 7 months and ends with one baby. A mother takes care of the baby on her own. A baby will spend the first 4 to 5 months of life attached to the mother’s belly. After that period, a youngster will move to the mother’s back for the next 6 months. Young spider monkeys drink their mother’s milk for 2 years.
They have long, lanky arms and gripping tails that enable them to move gracefully from branch to branch and tree to tree. These nimble monkeys spend most of their time aloft and maintain a powerful grip on branches even though they have no thumbs.
The spider monkey is an essential part of the tropical rainforest ecosystem. They play a key role in seed dispersal, allowing their forest environment to continue to grow and thrive.
Spider monkeys can survive 22 to 25 years in the wild and up to 35 years in captivity.