Squirrel Monkey

Tropical Rainforest

Location in Zoo

Tropical Rainforest
body length 10-14 inches
body length 9-13 inches
tail length 14-17 inches
tail length 14-17 inches
1.5- 2.5 pounds
1.3 - 2.3 pounds

4 years
2.5 years

Geographic Range

East of the Andes from Columbia and northern Peru to northeastern Brazil

Scientific Information

Scientific Name:
Saimiri sciureus

Lifestyle and Lifespan

Activity Time Frame:
Sexual Dimorphism:
160-170 days
Lifespan in the Wild:
15 years
Lifespan in Captivity:
20 years


Least Concerned
Habitat Loss


Their fur is 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.

Species Specifics

The social structure of squirrel monkeys varies between species. Saimiri scuireus live in much smaller groups than other Saimiri species. Males and females are fully integrated into the group, as opposed to most Saimiri species. Both males and females will leave their natal group. Females tend to travel between several groups in their lifetime. Whereas males tend to spend more time on the periphery or roaming by themselves. When a mixed sex group is formed, males tend to fight fiercely with any solitary males who try to join the group

Physical Characteristics

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.



Lives in primary and secondary forests and in cultivated areas, usually along rivers and streams. They use all levels of the forest, but forage and travel mainly in the lower canopy and understory



Squirrel Monkeys primarily eat fruit, nuts, insects, spiders, bird eggs, or young birds

Ecological Web

Squirrel monkeys play an important role in controlling insect populations. They also serve as a good source of food for many other animals in their ecosystem, such as raptors, snakes, and large cats.

Activity and Behavior

Activity Pattern

Squirrel monkeys spend 75-80% of their day foraging for fruit, insects, and other small arthropods. During the dry season, fruit becomes more scarce, and they are able to depend entirely on animal prey.


Squirrel monkeys wipe urine onto their hands and feet to mark their territory.

Social Behavior

Live in groups of 15-12. Both sexes form a single linear hierarchy, with most males being more dominant than females. Males form coalitions and tend to be aggressive towards other males, and potential predators. The fruits they eat tend to be located in small, dense patches, so competition between group members tends to be high.

Reproductive Behavior

Squirrel monkeys mate between September and November. Males and females are promiscuous and will mate with several partners. Offspring are born during the dry season, between February and April, when there is a high abundance of arthropods. For the first month of life, babies will stay attached to their mom, getting carried around on her back. Females act as the sole caregiver to their young, though males will also display increased aggression towards predators during the birthing season.


Squirrel Monkeys usually only give birth to one offspring at a time. For the first month of life, babies will stay attached to their mom, getting carried around on her back. Females act as the sole caregiver to their young, though males will also display increased aggression towards predators during the birthing season.



Squirrel monkeys are listed as Least Concern, because of their relatively wide range, adaptability to some degree of disturbed forest, and the lack of major threats. Given their small size, they are generally not hunted for meat. Though in some countries, squirrel monkeys are trapped and sold into the pet trade.


Current Threats

Our Role

Exhibit and educate

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Fascinating Facts

Squirrel Monkeys can leap horizontally up to 2 meters.

Female squirrel monkeys have a pseudo-penis that they use to display dominance over other, smaller cohorts.

Squirrel monkeys have the largest brain to body mass ratio of all primates. It is twice the proportion of a human.


Rhines, Cynthia. "Saimiri sciureus (South American squirrel monkey)." Animal Diversity Web. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 May 2017.

MacDonald, David. 1987. Encyclopedia of Mammals. Equinox, Oxford.

Novak, Ronald. 1999. Walker

"Saimiri sciureus ." Saimiri sciureus (Common Squirrel Monkey, South American Squirrel Monkey). IUCN Red List, n.d. Web. 27 May 2017.

"Squirrel monkey Saimiri." Primate Info Net Banner. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 May 2017.