Squirrel Monkey

ORDER: Primates

FAMILY: Cebidae

GENUS: Saimiri

SPECIES: sciureus

Head and body length: 10-14 inches. Tail length: 14-17 inches. Weight: 1.5 - 2.5 pounds. Males are larger than females. Pelage short, thick, soft, and brightly colored. Skin on lips and around nostrils is black and almost devoid of hair. Most common coloration is white around eyes, ears, throat, and on sides of neck. Top of head is black to grayish, back forearms, hands, and feet are reddish or yellow with shoulders and hind feet suffused with gray. Thumb is short but well developed. Underparts whitish to yellowish, tail bicolored with black tip. Tail is not prehensile.

East of the Andes from Columbia and northern Peru to northeastern Brazil. Lives in virgin and secondary forests and in cultivated areas, usually along rivers and streams.

Omnivorous. Insects, spiders, bird eggs, young birds, fruit and nuts.

Diurnal. Can move almost silently through the upper canopy. Usually quiet but utters loud cries when alarmed. Arboreal although occasionally descends to ground. Associate in bands of 12-100. Squirrel monkey groups are subdivided into adult male bands, mother-infant bands, and juvenile bands. Adult females with their young form the core of the group. Adult males intermingle with the females only during the several months of mating season. Single young born after 6 months gestation. Mother is not particularly attentive. Females mature at age 2 1/2; males at 4-5 years. Life span is 15 years in the wild, 20 years in captivity.

Squirrel monkeys move through the trees by leaping. They have thighs that are shorter relative to their lower legs; this allows more jumping force. They distribute a musky glandular secretion throughout their fur (especially on tail) as scent to mark territory or to leave a trail for others of the troop to follow as they go through the trees. This odor turns away hunters who might otherwise kill them for food.

Squirrel monkeys find safety in numbers by feeding in large groups that are too great for the larger monkeys to chase from the trees.

The squirrel monkeys can be found in the Tropical Rainforest.

Most common monkey in South America. They have been extensively used for biomedical research in the past. Trade is now regulated, but they are used locally for food, bait and pets. On CITES Appendix II (threatened). Listed as a species of Least Concern by IUCN.


  1. MacDonald, David. 1987. Encyclopedia of Mammals. Equinox, Oxford.
  2. Novak, Ronald. 1999. Walker