BLACK-HEADED SQUIRREL MONKEY
Where do they live?
- The black-headed squirrel monkey, or black squirrel monkey, populates a very small range of the Mamirauá State Sustainable Development Reserve in the Amazon rainforest in the northwestern area of Brazil. They populate the floodplain at the convergence of the Amazon and Japura rivers. This New World monkey is protected within this park from hunting, but there continues to be logging, much of it concentrated along the main steam of the Amazon.
What do they look like?
- These monkeys are small in size only about 26-36 cm in length (10.2- 14.1 in). Their tail is quite long and can add up to an additional 40 cm (15 in). They are sexually dimorphic, so the males exhibit larger body size compared to the females. Males weigh between 700-1100 g (1.5- 2.4 lbs.) and females are 500-700 g (1.1- 1.5 lbs.). Their fur is thick with a light brown to yellowish color on the body and black around their rounded head. They received the name 'black-headed squirrel monkey' from the line of black that runs from the crown of their head to the tip of the tail. They have larger eyes and large white ears. Around their eyes are white mask-like markings that continues down the chest. The muzzle is an exception; it is bare of any fur with dark skin. Their tails are long but non-prehensile, with the tip of it being black and slightly tufted.
What do they eat?
- These are very active monkeys and, to keep their energy levels up, they mainly feed on fruits and insects. They are omnivores, so they are capable of eating a variety of food types. When these are in low supply, they will eat birds eggs, flowers and other plant parts.
What is their social life like?
- Black headed squirrel monkeys form the largest social groups of any of the New World primates. They form multi-male, multi-female groups that can be composed of 300 individuals. During the non-mating season, smaller sub-groups form comprised of 20-50 individuals. They exhibit a dominance hierarchy, but more research needs to be conducted in order to more fully understand how they operate. They are active during the day (diurnal). They move quadrupedally (on all fours) through the middle canopy of the trees, using their tail for balance.
- These primates are listed as Vulnerable. Living in such a small area of the world, it is essential to preserve their habitat so that they can continue flourishing in the wild. Their localized habitat poses the largest threat to this species. They have been captured for the illegal pet trade and for medical testing. Habitat destruction and illegal hunting continue to be a problem.
Some photos courtesy of ARKive.org
Written by Heidi Giancola, July 2016