Know Your Primate: Ateles paniscus

Order: Primates
Suborder: Haplorrhini
Family: Atelidae
Subfamily: Atelinae
Genus: Ateles
Species: Ateles paniscus
Common Name: Black spider monkey
Currently, Ateles is composed of six-seven allopatric species. The black spider monkey lives in Central and South America. They are large monkeys, weighing 15-19 pounds, that have a long, prehensile tail.


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The black spider monkey displays little to no sexual dimorphism and the females have a long clitoris – which is often mistaken for a penis. Primary residence is in the upper canopy of primary rain forests. Locomotion ranges from arboreal quadrupedalism to brachiation – consequently they often group with gibbons in morphometric analyses.
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The black spider monkey lives in fision-fusion groups (much like chimps) of up to 100 individuals, although typical group size is from 2-30 individuals. They eat ripe fruit and are occasionally observed eating large amounts of leaves.
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In the wild the black spider monkey has been known to break off dead branches that weigh up to 11 pounds and drop them on approachers.
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2 Responses

  1. “known to break off dead branches that weigh up to 11 pounds and drop them on approachers.” These guys are making a good run for my favourite monkey

  2. I’ve had a nice 4-5 foot chunk of branch fall about 6 inches in front of my face by the delicate hand of this guys’ cousin, Ateles geoffroyi.
    Moral of the story: always go in twos when studying Ateles, you may need somebody to run for help.

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