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Ateles geoffroyi (*)

Cladus: Eukaryota
Supergroup: Opisthokonta
Regnum: Animalia
Subregnum: Eumetazoa
Cladus: Bilateria
Cladus: Nephrozoa
Cladus: Deuterostomia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Infraphylum: Gnathostomata
Superclassis: Tetrapoda
Classis: Mammalia
Subclassis: Theria
Infraclassis: Placentalia
Ordo: Primates
Subordo: Haplorrhini
Infraordo: Simiiformes
Parvordo: Platyrrhini
Familia: Atelidae
Subfamilia: Atelinae
Genus: Ateles
Species: Ateles geoffroyi


Ateles geoffroyi, Kuhl, 1820

Vernacular names
English: Geoffroy's Spider Monkey
Español: mono araña de Geoffroy
Português: Macaco-aranha-de-Geoffroy


* [1] Listed animal in CITES Appendix I


Geoffroy's Spider Monkey, Ateles geoffroyi, also known as Black-handed Spider Monkey,[3] is a species of spider monkey, a type of New World monkey, from Central America, parts of Mexico and possibly a small portion of Colombia. There are at least five subspecies. Some primatologists classify the Black-headed Spider Monkey, A. fusciceps, found in Panama, Colombia and Ecuador as the same species as Geoffroy's Spider Monkey.

It is one of the largest New World monkeys, often weighing as much as 9 kilograms. Its arms are significantly longer than its legs, and it has a prehensile tail that can support the entire weight of the monkey and that is used as an extra limb. Its hands have only a vestigial thumb, but long, strong hook-like fingers. These adaptations allow the monkey to move by swinging by its arms beneath the tree branches.

Geoffroy's Spider Monkey lives in fission–fusion societies that contain between 20 and 42 members. Its diet consists primarily of ripe fruit and it requires large tracts of forest to survive. As a result of habitat loss, hunting and capture for the pet trade, it is considered to be endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Geoffroy's Spider Monkey belongs to the New World monkey family Atelidae, which contains the spider monkeys, woolly monkeys, muriquis and howler monkeys. It is a member of the subfamily Atelinae, which includes the spider monkeys, woolly monkeys and muriquis, and of the genus Ateles, which contains all the spider monkeys.[1][4] The genus name Ateles means "imperfect", a reference to the vestigial thumb.[5] The species name geoffroyi is in honor of French naturalist Étienne Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire.

There are at least five recognized subspecies of this monkey:[1]

* Nicaraguan Spider Monkey,[4] Ateles geoffroyi geoffroyi
* Hooded Spider Monkey,[4] Ateles geoffroyi grisescens
* Ornate Spider Monkey,[4] Ateles geoffroyi ornatus
* Mexican Spider Monkey,[4] Ateles geoffroyi vellerosus
* Yucatan Spider Monkey,[4] Ateles geoffroyi yucatanensis

Some authorities also recognize Ateles geoffroyi azuerensis and Ateles geoffroyi frontatus as valid subspecies.[2] The Black-headed Spider Monkey, Ateles fusciceps is considered by authorities such as Groves (1989) and Rylands et al (2006) to be a separate species from Geoffroy's Spider Monkey.[1][6][7] Other authorities, including Froelich (1991), Collins and Dubach (2001) and Nieves (2005), condider A. fusciceps to be synonymous with A. geoffroyi.[8] Under this treatment, the two subspecies of the Black-headed Spider Monkey represent additional subspecies of Geoffroy's Spider Monkey, A. g. fusciceps and A. g. rufiventris.[8]

There is no universal agreement over the number of spider monkey species. Kellogg and Goldman (1944) based their classification on fur color, and Groves (1989) based his on fur color and geographic dirtibution. Kellogg and Goldman differentiated Geoffroy's Spider Monkey from other species by its dark black head, hands and writsts. Recent studies use Mitochondrial DNA to help differentiate species. Such studies by Collins and Daubach (2000, 2001, 2006) indicate that Geoffroy's Spider Monkey is more closely related to the White-fronted Spider Monkey, A. belzebuth, and the Brown Spider Monkey, A. hybridus, than it is to the Red-faced Spider Monkey, A. paniscus. According to these studies, A. paniscus branched off from the other spider monkeys approximately 3.27 million years ago and the spider monkeys branched off from the woolly monkeys and muiriquis 3.59 million years ago. Older studies by Porter, et al indicate that the howler monkeys are believed to have branced off from the other Atelides over 10 million years ago.[8]

Geoffroy's Spider Monkey is one of the largest New World monkeys. Its length measures between 30 and 63 cm (12 and 25 in) and it weighs between 6 and 9 kg (13 and 20 lb).[3][9] The tail is longer than the body at between 63 and 85 cm (25 and 33 in).[3][9] Males are slightly larger than females.[10]
Its body color varies by subspecies and population and can be buff, reddish, rust, brown or black.[3][11][12] The hands and feet are dark or black.[13] The face usually has a pale mask around the eyes and muzzle.[9]

Its arms and legs are long and slim.[14] The arms are about 25% longer than the legs.[15] There is only a vestigial thumb, but the fingers are long and strong, making the hands hook-like.[15][16] The long arms and hook-like hands allow Geoffroy's Spider Monkey to brachiate, that is, swing by its arms beneath the tree branches.[15]

The prehensile tail is very strong and has a palm-like pad at the end. The tail acts as an extra limb, and is used for locomotion as well as to pick fruits and to scoop water from holes in trees.[15] Geoffroy's Spider Monkey can support its weight suspended by its tail and often does so when feeding.[12]

The clitoris of female Geoffroy's Spider Monkeys is large and protrudes, looking like a penis.[15] This organ, called a pendulous clitoris because of the way it dangles externally, is actually larger than the male flaccid penis.[17] As a result, females are sometimes mistaken for males by human observers.[15] The enlarged clitoris is believed to aid males in determining sexual receptiveness, allowing them to touch the clitoris and smell their fingers to pick up chemical or olfactory cues to the female's reproductive status.[17]

Distribution and habitat

The range of Geoffroy's Spider Monkey extends over much of Central America, encompassing Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Belize and the south and much of the eastern portion of Mexico.[4] Observations by local people indicate that the southernmost subspecies, the Hooded Spider Monkey, Ateles geoffroyi grisescens, may also occur in the portion of Colombia near the Panama border.[4][18] In western Colombia and northeast Panama it is replaced by the Black-headed Spider Monkey, A. fusciceps, which is considered by some primatologists to be a subspecies of Geoffroy's Spider Monkey.[4][8]

Geoffroy's Spider Monkey lives in various types of forest including rainforests, semi-deciduous forests and mangrove forests.[19] Higher densities of Geoffroy's Spider Monkeys are generally found in areas containing evergreen forest.[20]


Geoffroy's Spider Monkey is arboreal and diurnal, and mostly inhabits the upper portion of the forest.[9][14][15] However, it comes to the ground more frequently than other spider monkey species.[21] It lives in fission–fusion societies large groups with a typical group size of 20 to 42 members which split into smaller subgroups to forage during the day.[10][15][22] Subgroups typically number two to six members, and sometimes the subgroups remain separate from the main group even through the night.[15]
Geoffroy's Spider Monkey forages over large tracts of forest in search of food. Home ranges for groups can exceed 900 hectares (2,200 acres).[10] Monkeys can range about 2,000 metres (6,600 ft) each day.[10] Males tend to cover a larger day range than females and dominant individuals tend to have larger day ranges.[10] Geoffroy's Spider Monkey sometimes rubs a mixture of saliva and ground lime tree Citrus aurantifolia leaves on its fur.[15] This is believed to act as an insect repellent.[15] In some locations, Geoffroy's Spider Monkey interacts with the White-headed Capuchin.[3] These interactions can include mutual grooming.[23]
In addition to walking or running on four limbs and climbing, Geoffroy's Spider Monkey uses several forms of suspensory locomotion. Brachiation, or swinging from the arms with assistance from the prehensile tail, is the most common form of suspensory locomotion. Less common forms include swinging while suspended by the tail, and walking on four limbs under a branch. Studies have indicated that Geoffroy's Spider Monkey uses suspensory locomotion less frequently than other spider monkey species.[21]

The most common method used by spider monkeys to cross between trees is "bridging", in which the monkey grasps for a branch from the new tree and pulls it towards itself so that it can climb onto it. Airborne leaps are used when necessary, and certain populations of Geoffroy's Spider Monkey, especially in Panama, are known to leap between trees more frequently than other populations.[21]

When not moving, Geoffroy's Spider Monkey uses not only suppoted postures, such as sitting or standing, but also suspended postures in which it hangs from a branch. Suspended postures always include support from the tail, and sometimes the monkey hangs by its tail alone. Other times the monkey hangs by the tail and by one or more limbs simultaneously. Studies have indicated that at least some Geoffroy's Spider Monkey populations use suspended postures less frequently when feeding than other spider monkey species.[21]

Communication and intelligence

Sounds produced by Geoffroy's Spider Monkey include barks, whinnies, squeals, squeaks and screams.[3][9][15] Barks are typically alarm calls.[15] Whinnies and screams can be used as distress calls, and are also made at dawn and at dusk.[15] Each monkey makes a unique sound, which may allow monkeys to recognize each other through vocal communication alone.[15] Several researchers have investigated the use of whinnies, which consist of between two and twelve quick increases and decreases in pitch, in more detail.[24] This research has indicated that one additional purpose of whinnies is to call other group members to a food source.[24] Other purposes of whinnies suggested by this research have included maintaining vocal contact with other group members while traveling and distinguishing between group members and members of other groups.[24]

Geoffroy's Spider Monkey uses several forms of non-vocal communication. A curled tail or arched back can be used as a threat display towards other spider monkeys. A head shake is used either as a threat or an invitation to play. Shaking branches or swaying arms is used as a warning of danger to the group.[12]

Although they do not use tools, spider monkeys, including Geoffroy's Spider Monkey, are regarded as intelligent primates. A study performed in 2007 concluded that spider monkeys were the third most intelligent non-human primate, behind only orang-utans and chimpanzees, and ahead of gorillas and all other monkeys.[25] This mental capacity may be an adaptation to spider monkeys' frugivorous diets, which require them to be able to identify and memorize many different types of foods and their locations.[26]

Diet and predators
Geoffroy's Spider Monkey eats mostly fruit – preferably ripe and fleshy – and spends 70% to 80% of its feeding time eating fruit. Leaves make up most of the rest of its diet. Young leaves are especially important to provide protein that can be lacking in fruit. Other elements of its diet include flowers, bark, insects, honey, seeds and buds.[13][15]

In addition to providing much of the monkey's nutritional needs, fruit and leaves provide much of its water requirements.[27] Like other spider monkeys, Geoffroy's Spider Monkey drinks water from tree holes and bromeliads in trees but unlike other spider monkeys, it also drinks from terrestrial water sources.[27]

Large cats – jaguars and pumas – appear to be the only significant adult spider monkey predators, other than humans.[28] Eagles and large snakes are also potential predators.[29] However, predation of Geoffroy's Spider Monkey has not been observed by researchers.[12]

Life cycle

Female Geoffroy's Spider Monkeys bear young every two to four years.[9] Among males, mating is not restricted to only dominant individuals. In one study at Barro Colorado Island, all males in the group were observed mating at least once over a one year period. However, it appears that dominant males mate more often than low ranking males. It is unknown whether male dominance is correlated with greater success in fathering offspring.[17]

Geoffroy's Spider Monkeys mate in a sitting position, both facing the same direction, with the male seated behind the female and his arms wrapped around her chest and legs wrapped around her waist.[3][15] This embrace can last between 8 and 22 minutes.[15] Prior to mating, the male and female both separate themselves from the rest of the group, so that they are alone except for any of the female's juvenile offspring.[17]

The gestational period is about 7.5 months, after which a single young is typically born, although twins sometimes occur.[17] The young are dark in color until they begin taking on the adult coloration at the age of five months. They are carried on their mothers' chest for the first month and a half to two months, at which point they can ride on her back. They nurse until they are about one year old, but begin eating solid foods and moving independently at about three months. Even when they move independently, they cannot always cross gaps in the canopy that adults can manage. To help them, an adult will stretch across the gap, forming a bridge that the young can cross.[15]

Females become sexually mature at about four years; males at about five years. Upon reaching sexual maturity, females leave their natal group but males do not. As a result, the males in the groups are typically related while the females are not. This may help explain why male Geoffroy's Spider Monkeys form strong bonds. Maximum life span in the wild is unknown. In captivity, Geoffroy's Spider Monkey can live at least 33 years old.[15]


Geoffroy's Spider Monkey is listed as "Endangered" by the IUCN, mostly due to habitat loss.[2] It requires large tracts of primary forest to survive, and so it is vulnerable to deforestation and it is sometimes hunted by humans and captured for the pet trade.[15] Because of its low reproductive turnover, it cannot quickly replenish its numbers when impacted by these events.[15] As a result, Geoffroy's Spider Monkey has disappeared from some areas where it was once common.[15] Three subspecies are critically endangered.[30][31][32]

One area where Geoffroy's Spider Monkey was eliminated was Barro Colorado Island in Panama. Hunting had eliminated the native population there by 1912. However, between 1959 and 1966 an effort was made to reintroduce the species to Barro Colorado. At least 18 monkeys were reintroduced but only five, one male and four females, survived the reintroduction. This small group has thrived, and the island population had grown to 28 monkeys by 2003.[33]


1. ^ a b c d Groves, C. (2005). Wilson, D. E., & Reeder, D. M. ed. Mammal Species of the World (3rd ed.). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 150–151. ISBN 0-801-88221-4. http://www.bucknell.edu/msw3/browse.asp?id=12100399.
2. ^ a b c Cuarón, A.D., Morales, A., Shedden, A., Rodriguez-Luna, E. & de Grammont, P.C. (2008). Ateles geoffroyi. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 7 October 2008. Database entry includes justification for why this species is endangered
3. ^ a b c d e f g Rowe, N. (1996). The Pictorial Guide to the Living Primates. Pogonias Press. p. 114. ISBN 0-9648825-0-7.
4. ^ a b c d e f g h i Rylands, A., Groves, C., Mittermeier, R., Cortes-Ortiz, L., and Hines, J. (2006). "Taxonomy and Distributions of Mesoamerican Primates". New Perspectives in the Study of Mesoamerican Primates. Springer. pp. 56–66. ISBN 0-387-25854-X.
5. ^ Rosenberger, A., Halenar, L., Cooke, S. & Hartwig, W. (2008). "Morphology and evolution of the spider monkey, genus Ateles". in Campbell, C.. Spider Monkeys. Cambridge University Press. p. 19. ISBN 978-0-521-86750-4.
6. ^ Rylands, A., Groves, C., Mittermeier, R., Cortes-Ortiz, L., and Hines, J. (2006). "Taxonomy and Distributions of Mesoamerican Primates". in Estrada, A., Garber, P., Pavelka, M. & Luecke, L.. New Perspectives in the Study of Mesoamerican Primates. Springer. pp. 67–69. ISBN 0-387-25854-X.
7. ^ Rylands, A. & Mittermeier, R. (2009). "The Diversity of the New World Primates". in Garber, P., Estrada, A., Bicca-Marqyes, J.C., Heymann, E. & Streier, K. South American Primates. Springer. p. 44. ISBN 978-0-387-78704-6.
8. ^ a b c d Collins, A. (2008). "The taxonomic status of spider monkeys in the twenty-first century". in Campbell, C.. Spider Monkeys. Cambridge University Press. pp. 50–72. ISBN 978-0-521-86750-4.
9. ^ a b c d e f Emmons, L. (1997). Neotropical Rainforest Mammals (Second Edition ed.). The University of Chicago Press. pp. 143–144. ISBN 0-226-20721-8.
10. ^ a b c d e Di Fiore, A. & Campbell C. (2007). "The Atelines". in Campbell, C., Fuentes, A., MacKinnon, K., Panger, M., & Bearder, S.. Primates in Perspective. Oxford University Press. p. 624. ISBN 978-0-19-517133-4.
11. ^ Reid, F. (1997). A Field Guide to the Mammals of Central America and Southeast Mexico. Oxford University Press. pp. 180–181. ISBN 0-19-506401-1.
12. ^ a b c d Defler, T. (2004). Primates of Colombia. Conservation International. pp. 339–347. ISBN 1-881-17383-6.
13. ^ a b Henderson, C. (2002). Field Guide to the Wildlife of Costa Rica. University of Texas Press. pp. 452–454. ISBN 9780292734593.
14. ^ a b Hunter, L. and Andrew, D. (2002). Watching Wildlife in Central America. Lonely Planet Publications. p. 151. ISBN 1-86450-034-4.
15. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w Wainwright, M. (2002). The Natural History of Costa Rican Mammals. Zona Tropical. pp. 146–149. ISBN 0-9705678-1-2.
16. ^ Rosenberger, A., Halenar, L., Cooke, S. & Hartwig, W. (2008). "Morphology and evolution of the spider monkey, genus Ateles". in Campbell, C.. Spider Monkeys. Cambridge University Press. pp. 30–33. ISBN 978-0-521-86750-4.
17. ^ a b c d e Campbell, C. & Gibson, K. (2008). "Spider monkey reproduction and sexual behavior". in Campbell, C.. Spider Monkeys. Cambridge University Press. pp. 266–283. ISBN 978-0-521-86750-4.
18. ^ Ryland, A. et al. (2000). Ateles geoffroyi ssp. grisescens. 2007 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2007. Retrieved on 2008-08-30.
19. ^ "BBC Black-Handed Spider Monkey". http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/wildfacts/factfiles/310.shtml. Retrieved 2008-08-29.
20. ^ DeGama, H. and Fedigan, L. (2006). "The Effects of Forest Fragment Age, Isolation, Size, Habitat Type, and Water Availability on Monkey Density in a Tropical Dry Forest". in Estrada, A., Garber, P., Pavelka, M. * Luecke, L.. New Perspectives in the Study of Mesoamerican Primates. New York: Springer. pp. 165–186. ISBN 978-0-387-25854-6.
21. ^ a b c d Youlatos, D. (2008). "Locomotion and positional behavior". in Campbell, C.. Spider Monkeys. Cambridge University Press. pp. 185–214. ISBN 978-0-521-86750-4.
22. ^ Sussman, R. (2003). Primate Ecology and Social Structure Volume 2: New World Monkeys (Revised First Edition ed.). Pearson Custom Publishing. pp. 138–142. ISBN 0-536-74364-9.
23. ^ Defler, T. (2004). Primates of Colombia. Conservation International. p. 234. ISBN 1-881-17383-6.
24. ^ a b c Ramos-Fernandez, G. (2008). "Communication". in Campbell, C.. Spider Monkeys. Cambridge University Press. pp. 224–229. ISBN 978-0-521-86750-4.
25. ^ Leake, D. & Dobson, R. (April 15, 2007). "Chimps Knocked Off Top of the IQ Tree". London: The Sunday Times. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article1654998.ece. Retrieved 2008-08-29.
26. ^ Byrne, R. & Whiten, A. (1988). Machiavellian intelligence: social expertise and the evolution of intellect in monkeys, apes, and humans. Oxford University Press. pp. 289–294. ISBN 9780198521754. http://books.google.com/books?id=unlEuP-GgmoC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_v2_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q=&f=false.
27. ^ a b Di Fiore, A., Link, A. & Dew, J.L. (2008). "Diets of wild spider monkeys". in Campbell, C.. Spider Monkeys. Cambridge University Press. p. 82. ISBN 978-0-521-86750-4.
28. ^ Matsuda, I.; Izawa, K. (2008). "Predation of wild spider monkeys at La Macarena, Colombia". Primate 49 (1): 63–68. doi:10.1007/s10329-007-0042-5. http://www.springerlink.com/content/k81437kp74307841/.
29. ^ Cawthon Lang, KA (2005-04-10). "Primate Factsheets: Black spider monkey (Ateles paniscus)". Wisconsin Primate Research Center (WPRC). http://pin.primate.wisc.edu/factsheets/entry/black_spider_monkey/taxon. Retrieved 2008-08-29.
30. ^ Cuarón, A.D., Morales, A., Shedden, A., Rodriguez-Luna, E. & de Grammont, P.C. (2008). Ateles geoffroyi ssp. vellerosus. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 2009-02-01.
31. ^ Cuarón, A.D., Morales, A., Shedden, A., Rodriguez-Luna, E. & de Grammont, P.C. (2008). Ateles geoffroyi ssp. azuerensis. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 2009-02-01.
32. ^ Cuarón, A.D., Shedden, A., Rodríguez-Luna, E., de Grammont, P.C. & Link, A. (2008). Ateles geoffroyi ssp. geoffroyi. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 2009-02-01.
33. ^ Milton, K. & Hopkins, M. (2006). "Spider Monkey Population on Barro Colorado Island, Panama". in Estrada, A., Garber, P., Pavelka, M. & Luecke, L.. New Perspectives in the Study of Mesoamerican Primates. Springer. pp. 417–436. ISBN 0-387-25854-X.

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