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Squirrel Monkeys


COMMON NAME: Squirrel monkey


TYPE: Mammal

GROUP NAME: Troop, Barrel, Tribe
DIET: Omnivore. Insects, eggs, small vertebrate animals,

various fruits, flowers, and tender leaves.


HEAD & BODY LENGTH: 9.8 to 13.8 inches

TAIL LENGTH: 14 to 17 inches

WEIGHT: 1.1 to 2.2 pounds

1. Squirrel monkeys get their name from their behavior.

2. Squirrel monkeys are arboreal animals, meaning that they live in trees and spend most of their time hopping between branches. They’re also small, quick and nimble, so it’s probably inevitable that they were nicknamed after squirrels.

3. Squirrel monkeys are considered "New World" monkeys, since they’re native to South America. New World monkeys have flat noses and more teeth, but Old World monkeys are the ones with opposable thumbs.

4. Squirrel monkeys spend 99% of their time in trees. They don’t venture too high or too low because they have natural predators on either side, so they stick to canopy environments where they can move safely and freely.

5. Squirrel monkeys rarely descend from the trees to drink from their water sources. They sip from puddles and tree holes rather than risking open exposure. They also get a lot of water from their food.

6. Squirrel monkeys are omnivores. While their primary diet is fruits, flowers, seeds and nuts, they also enjoy small bugs and reptiles such as grasshoppers, caterpillars, salamanders and tree frogs.

7. Unlike many of their cousins, squirrel monkeys don’t have prehensile tails, so they don’t use their tails for gripping or swinging through branches. The main purpose of their tails is to help them keep their balance as they run, jump, play, groom and sleep in the trees.

8. Squirrel monkeys have many predators. This is the main reason why they stick to such a rigid range in the trees. If they venture to the top of the canopy, they’re vulnerable to raptors, falcons, vultures and other birds of prey. If they get too low, they’ll be snatched up by snakes, tigers, jaguars, weasels and leopards. Leopards are a particular concern since they can also climb trees; they can chase a squirrel monkey right into their natural habitat.

9. Squirrel monkeys have excellent, full-color eyesight, and they can spot fruits and vegetables from many feet away. They’re also quite skilled at detecting motion, so if any tasty bug slithers down the branch where they’re resting, they can snatch it up and enjoy a snack. 

10. Squirrel monkeys are smart! They have one of the biggest brain-to-body ratios of the entire monkey family, and they’re quite adept at things like problem-solving.

11. Squirrel monkeys have large and active social groups called troops, usually 50 – 100 monkeys, but there have been troops as big as 500 monkeys.

12. It’s estimated that only around 50% of squirrel monkeys reach full maturity when they don't live in the comfortable confines of Liberty Acres, here in North Carolina. Their biggest danger period is when they’re newborns; they’re so small and helpless that they’re easy prey for birds, snakes, possums, weasels, toucans and big cats. 

13. To protect themselves, squirrel monkeys stick together. In a large troop, they can have eyes and ears everywhere, and they can warn each other with high-pitched sounds when a predator enters their midst. Some troops have also been known to overwhelm small- and mid-sized predators and chase them off.

14. Squirrel monkeys sheare our enjoyment of encountering from other species. Squirrel monkeys have been observed working with capuchin monkeys to find food and watch out for predators. Squirrel monkeys tolerate the presence of certain squirrels and non-predatory birds that trail behind them and use them to find their own food. Squirrel monkeys are pretty excited by people here at Liberty Acres in North Carolina.

15. While not technically classified as an invasive species, squirrel monkeys can be a big nuisance for South American farmers. It's not a coincidence that Loki the North Carolina squirrel monkey got his name from the Norse god of mischief and destruction. 

16. In South America, squirrel monkeys raid crops and fields when they don’t find enough food in the wild, and since they eat all kinds of bugs, plants, seeds and small reptiles, they can impact a local ecosystem. North Carolina based squirrel monkeys like Loki are rather lucky to be at Liberty Acres, since in South America it isn’t uncommon for farmers to shoot squirrel monkeys on sight. 

17. Squirrel monkeys are very active communicators. They cry, shriek, peep, call and cackle depending on the situation. Danger sounds are usually loud and high-pitched while aggressive posturing during a fight is lower and almost growl-like.

18. Squirrel monkeys don't have opposable thumbs? This is one of the differences between "New World" and "Old World" monkeys: New World monkeys don’t have opposable thumbs while Old World monkeys do. However, even though squirrel monkeys don’t have opposable thumbs, their thumbs still exist and are still quite nimble. For this reason, they’re sometimes said to have "semi-opposable" thumbs to distinguish their digits from other animals that completely lack strength or flexibility in their hands.

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