Spider monkeys (Ateles geoffryi) are long-limbed, brown, black or red-colored primates that live in the rain forest canopies of South America and Central America. Despite their habit of staying in the protective canopy layer of the forest, spider monkeys are endangered. Humans hunt them for their meat, they are taken into captivity as pets and are affected by the destruction of the forests due to logging, according to the website Zoo Animals. As of 2010, the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species lists all but one of nine subspecies of spider monkeys as endangered or critically endangered, and notes an overall trend of decreasing population.
According to BrazilianFauna.com, the spider monkey’s geographical range includes southern Mexico down to Bolivia and Matto Grosso state in the west of Brazil, areas covered by the rain forests that the monkeys inhabit.
The rain forests of Central America and the Amazon Basin provide spider monkeys with the tree canopies they need to survive. According to WorldAtlas.com, the tropical rain forest of the Amazon Basin is the largest in the world. Tropical rain forest canopies are an almost continuous dense ceiling of trees and branches. Spider monkeys occupy evergreen, semi-deciduous and mangrove forests.
According to Blue Planet Biomes online, approximately 9 feet of rain falls in the Amazon rain forest each year. The canopy layer of the forest is also the most populous, providing a home for numerous species of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, birds and insects. The leaves of the canopy filter out 80 percent of sunlight, so much of what the spider monkey eats can only grow in this layer. The soil of the rain forest is highly acidic, with only the topmost layer containing significant nutrients. Blue Planet Biomes calls the rain forest nature’s most efficient ecosystem. As soon as any tree falls, it is quickly decomposed to become food for its neighbors.
Spider monkeys eat a variety of leaves, flowers, bark and honey, but the focus of their diet is fruit and seeds, according to the website Zoo Animals. They further supplement their diet with insects, larvae and eggs. They will eat large amounts of food in short periods, spending 15 minutes or less on one meal.
Like all monkeys in the western hemisphere, spider monkeys almost never descend to the ground, according to BrazilianFauna.com. Like many species of monkey, their groups are organized into hierarchies based on dominance. Zoo Animals online notes that social groups consist of about 30 monkeys. Although the males are dominant and will threaten one another loudly, females seem to make key decisions for the group. Spider monkeys are known for their loud calls, which they use to communicate over large distances when they are foraging or on the move.