Black Spider Monkey

Only surpassed by the gibbons for grace and agility in the trees, the black spider monkey, with its extremely long limbs and tail, is the most adept and acrobatic of all New World monkeys. This species is light in build, with a small head. The spider monkey has the most highly developed prehensile tail of all mammals and uses it as a fifth limb to grasp branches or food items as it moves through the trees. The monkey’s whole weight can be supported by the tail, and when hanging by the tail with the long arms outstretched it has an amazing reach. Part of the underside of the tail nearest the tip is naked and patterned with fine grooves, resembling human fingerprint patterns. These increase friction and thus aid grip.

Spider monkeys frequently swing through the trees, using their hands like hooks to hang on to the branches. The hands are accordingly modified, with long, curved digits and only vestigial thumbs. While this structure makes the hands ideal for swinging in trees, it impedes delicate manipulation of food, but the monkey often uses its highly sensitive tail in order to gather food and to hold items, such as fruit, while it takes off the skin with its teeth.

Black spider monkeys rarely come to the ground. They feed in the trees, mainly on fruit and some nuts. They live in groups of 15 to 30 animals in a home range, but a group may split into smaller parties while foraging during the day. Most feeding is done in the early morning and the afternoon.

The female gives birth to 1 young after an average gestation of about 20 weeks. The young is dependent on its mother for 10 months or so.

Range: N. South America to Brazil and Bolivia.

Habitat: Forest.

Size: Body: 15 3/4 - 23 1/2 in (40 - 60 cm). Tail: 23 1/2 - 31 1/2 in (60 - 80 cm).