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Spider Monkeys Are Marvelous

Updated on August 8, 2015

Ateles belzebuth

Image courtesy of Shyamel
Image courtesy of Shyamel | Source


Atelidae are a family of monkeys, sometimes referred to as the ' four fingered monkeys', primarily because their thumbs on the forelimbs being generally concealed beneath the skin, although there are two species that have rudimental ones which consist of a single phalanx and without any nail.

The Genus under review is Ateles all of which are native to South America. This group of monkeys have particular haunts and specific characteristics in their appearance and habits. They inhabit the forests of South America which, until relatively recently, were unfrequented by man, with the exception of the endemic natives in the more open spaces especially near water.

These forests are dense with vegetation and there is an entanglement of creeping, climbing and parasitic plants. This type of forest is the proper pasture of the sloths which remain among the small twigs, feed on leaves and move little from the tree, or even, from branch to branch. { see unusual animals of the world-1 the sloths}.

The Ateles, live chiefly upon the fruits, and, that being the case, they must have a haunt to procure them. However, these forests also need enough light for them to be able to locate and examine the fruit bearing part of the tree. Hence they inhabit the parts of the forest that are referred to as the 'Middle' part of the forest. These are rich slopes which are located between the fertile, but rank flats by the waters, and the dry upland where the forests begin to straggle into the waste which bears no timber or brushwood only.

These places are suitable for the Ateles' , not only because of their unique actions but also because they are home to rich fruit-bearing trees which thrive on such slopes and are much more abundant than they possibly could be in the rank hollows or the higher dry slopes.

In these parts of the forests there are more openings and in general the trees stand further apart and they do not attain the same height as in the main body of the forests, the branches tend to spread out and they are less entangled by the plethora of creeping , climbing plants found in the former. Hence the animals that frequent such locations require to be much more active in their motions.

In these trees the spider monkeys are particularly active, especially in getting from branch to branch and from tree to tree. For this purpose the Ateles are perfectly adapted. The fore fingers seizing and holding as a hook are better adapted for the motion generally than hands with thumbs. The spider monkeys also have a fifth prehensile organ, and one which is perhaps even more efficient in their remarkable agile journey through the trees. That organ is the tail, which in this genus is perhaps more prehensile than in any other.

Skeleton of the spider monkey note the bones in the tail


Tail and other limbs.

The tail is long in all the species, in some they are twice as long as the body. On the under side of the tail towards the tip it is devoid of hair and is covered with the same skin which covers the inside of the fingers and, generally, all the parts of the animal that are utilised for grasping. The tail gets hold very quickly and the grip attained is more firm than that achieved by any hand. Thus when suspended by it, the animal can swing itself around a branch and leap some considerable distances.

The tail is a bony structure, incapable of lengthening or shortening, having a powerful gripping action, in one direction only. it is used to grasp for this purpose is first class. It is employed as they move around the branches and also for balance when it makes its ungainly attempts at walking.

None of the genus are handsome creatures. They have a facial angle of about 60 degrees, a large round head, a large prominent abdomen, long slender limbs and of course long tail. the joints of the limbs appear to be too loosely put together than those of almost any other mammal, and hence they are very awkward when upon the ground. these limbs are limbs of suspension, rather than of support, therefore when they attempt to use them for the purpose of support they are awkward because they are not formed for that purpose.

The legs are abundantly long making walking upon the ground very difficult. The joints are not firm, and the palms, the points of the fingers, or, any part that would afford a base does not help this genus. The only assistance in this respect are the inner edges of the fore feet and the outer edges of the hind feet, thus the animals shamble along, with a constant tendency of the fore limbs to get to wide apart and the hind feet tend to cross over each other.

However, walking upon the ground is not the element of these monkeys and although they do descend from the trees to toilet and rest, their time spent on the ground is as little as possible. But when in their element , the trees, they are perfectly at home, and as perfect in this habitat as they are clumsy on the ground. Their plaiting legs, the wide spreading arms, the flexible joints and the long prehensile tail enable them to seize and maintain their hold in situations where a more compact and better 'knit' frame could not. the distances they can reach and the certainty which they take hold is truly remarkable.

seen during their arboreal activity they are among the most energetic and sure footed animals you are ever likely to encounter. Most species, if not all of them, are sociable attached to each other and apparently of a mild disposition and inoffensive. They do not display any of the mischief of the common monkeys.

Courtesy of Friends of Animals at Primates Sanctuary San Antonio TX

A Glimpse at the Species.

There are seven species in the genus Ateles and seven sub-species.

The species are Ateles paniscus, A.belzebuth. A.chamek. A.hybrius. A. fuscipepes. A. marginatus. and A. geoffroyi.

A.Panicus is known also has the red faced spider monkey. they inhabit the rain forests of northern South America. It is classed as being Vulnerable on the I.U.C.N Red list

A paniscus

3.0 unported license . CC-BY-SA.
3.0 unported license . CC-BY-SA. | Source

Species continued

Ateles belzebuth---north western Amazon in Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Peru and Brazil. It is also known as the white fronted spider monkey. It is classed as Endangered.

A. chamek--The Peruvian spider monkey. Peru, Brazil and Bolivia. it is classed as Endangered.

A.hybridus--The brown or variegated spider monkey. Colombia, Venezuela. it is classed as being Critically Endangered.

A.fuscipeps---black-headed spider monkey of Central and South America, Colombia, Nicuragua, and Panama, they are classed as Critically Endangered.

A. marginatus. White cheeked spider monkey endemic to Brazil. It is classed as Endangered.

A. geoffroyi--Geoffroy's spider monkey, of Central America and parts of Mexico. It is classed as Endangered. [ many suspect that A. Fuscipeps is the same species as Geoffroy's spider monkey.

Ateles chamek

Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 generic license}
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 generic license} | Source

Ateles marginatus-the white cheeked spider monkey

Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0 unported license.
Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0 unported license. | Source

The seven sub -species

The recognized sub species are---

A.fuscipeps fuscipeps-- brown headed spider monkey. is a sub -species of the black headed spider monkey. Found in Ecuador -it is classed as Critically Endangered.

A.fuscipeps rufiventris, is found in Colombia and Panama. It is classed as critically Endangered.

A. geoffroyi vellerosus-- Mexican spider monkey, from Mexico and parts of South America it is classed as Critically Endangered.

A.geoffroyi yuccatanensis --the Yucatan spider monkey from Mexico, Guatemala and Belize. It is classed as Endangered.

A. geoffroyi geoffroyi, --The Nicaraguan spider monkey found in Nicaragua, parts of Costa Rica and the Ganaiaste peninsular. they are classed as Critically Endangered.

A.geoffroyi omatus --the Ornate spider monkey found in Central America, Costa Rica and Panama they are classed as Endangered.

A.geoffroyi grisesens.-- the Hooded spider monkey found in Panama and small parts of Colombia. Endangered { data deficient}

Two species of spider monkeys, A. hybridus the variegated spider monkey and A.fuscipeps fuscipeps feature on the list of the World's 25 most Endangered Primates.

As we can, see all the species of these unusual monkeys are in need of help if they are going to be around for future generations to enjoy and study.


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    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Greensleeves Hubs,

      Hi Alun it is a sad fact that many other species are under threat in many parts of the world. Thank you for your kind and appreciated comments. Best wishes to you.

    • Greensleeves Hubs profile image

      Greensleeves Hubs 

      5 years ago from Essex, UK

      Comprehensive cataloguing of all the species and sub species of spider monkeys, but how sad to see that almost all of them are now endangered. Voted up. Alun.

    • D.A.L. profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      Eddy, thank you . They are wonderful creatures, which like many others, are under constant threat due to mans activities. your kind comments are as usual much appreciated. Best wishes to you.

      tsmog, Thank you too, for your encouraging and most welcome comments. Best wishes to you my friend.

    • Eiddwen profile image


      5 years ago from Wales

      I knew nothing about these at all;until now that is.Thank you so much for this wonderful hub which I vote across the board and share. Enjoy your weekend.


    • tsmog profile image

      Tim Mitchell 

      5 years ago from Escondido, CA

      Very informative and offering a plethora of wonderment and, for this audience member, pause to ponder. A friend of Jungle Friends, located in Gainesville, Florida, my eye was drawn and the mind was offered a wonderful treat. Synchronicity comes along too.

      Thank you D.A.L



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