Creatures of the Amazon
Squirrel Monkey

By Mike Collis

Saimiri sciureus
Squirrel monkeys can be found throughout the new world and are not as once thought the same species. However the Common Squirrel Monkey is the one that inhabits the Amazon Rainforest. The central American Squirrel Monkey and the Black Squirrel Monkey from Central America are genetically different and both are listed as threatened. Squirrel monkeys grow up to about 15 inches in height plus a long tail of up to 20 inches in length. Males can weigh up to about 2 lbs 4 ounces while the smaller females up to 1 and a half pounds.

The fur is fairly short and is olive coloured except for its back which is a pale yellow. Around the mouth the fur is black and the ears and throat are white. The tail is not used for climbing but is used for balance and as a tool. Squirrel monkeys can move very quickly through the forest.
Females have a "false" penis that they display to show dominance over smaller monkeys.

The diet of the squirrel monkey is varied but usually they eat insects, fruit, seeds, flowers, nuts, bird's eggs, seeds and small animals. Squirrel monkeys live in large troops of up 500 individuals of both sexes. When threatened they make alarm calls to warn the troop. Their main predators are large birds of prey, snakes and ocelots. They mark their territory with their urine.

Mating occurs throughout the year depending on the season and mothers give birth during the rainy season after a gestation period of up to 170 days. Only the mothers care for the young which are usually weaned by 4 months. Females donít usually mate untill they are 3 years old. In captivity squirrel monkeys can live up to 20 years but in the wild that reduces to about 15.
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