Spider Monkeys are a complex group of South American primates which live in multimale, multifemale groups. Like all Spider Monkeys, The Black Handed Spider Monkey comes in a variety of pelage variations; the body is often yellowish, reddish to blackish (Groves, 2001) with the top of the head usually black. Overall there appears to be little sexual dimorphism between males and females.
Habitat and Distribution
The Black Handed Spider Monkey is found in Mexico and throughout Central America down to Panama. They are basically arboreal primates who very rarely come to the ground. The Black handed Spider Monkey appears to be the most flexible species when it comes to habitat choice, being found in evergreen, semi deciduous as well as undisturbed forests. (Freese, in Roosemalen 1988)
This species is considered endangered with habitat loss being the primary cause of its decline.
Spider Monkeys have evolved as true frugivorous primates where the consumption of ripe fruits makes up between 55 to 95% of feeding time ( Fiore, Link and Dew in Campbell 2008) Spider Monkeys also feed on other foods such as ;leaves, flowers, seeds and invertebrates. Spider Monkeys also play an integral role in the dispersal of seeds throughout the forest.
Breeding and Lifecycle
Female Spider Monkeys show some degree of seasonality with births usually peaking between November and January. Gestation period is approximately 230 days with a birth interval ranging from two to four years. Traditionally lifespan was estimated to be between 20 to 25 years however this species is often long lived in zoos. The oldest living Spider Monkey in the Australasian region is 52 years approx.
Spider Monkeys are a very dynamic species of primate with a social structure that is similar to the chimpanzee. Living in small subgroups which are very fluid in composition, all species of Spider Monkey come together in large social groups or communities, feeding and travelling together in various social compositions. One of the very unique qualities of the Spider Monkey is that it is very rare to find all members of a group together at any one time (Roosmalen, 1988). Genetic diversity is maintained in spider monkeys by females dispersing from their natal group. Male relationships are also very strong in spider monkeys and have been described as being the strongest relationship outside of the mother infant bond.
Baldwin, J D &Baldwin, J I, 1988, In Ecology and Behaviour of Neotropical Primates, Academia Brasilera de Ciencias, Washington.
Groves C, 2001, Primate Taxonomy, Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data, USA.