Scientific Name: Cebus apella robustus
Due to the dark crest of hair on the top of its head, this monkey was named after the religious order of Franciscan friars known as “Capuchins,” who wear robes with crested hoods.
Capuchins belong to the cebid family of New World (Western hemisphere) monkeys. These playful creatures are also highly intelligent.
STATUS: Crested capuchins are listed as Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
HABITAT: These monkeys have a small range in east Brazil’s Atlantic forests, isolated in remnant forest patches.
DIET: Crested capuchins are omnivorous, eating a more diverse diet than other new world monkeys. They enjoy fruits, seeds, nuts, insects, other invertebrates, and crops. Their deeper, lower jaw, massive jaw muscles, and thick molar enamel allow them to eat more vegetation and larger fruits and nuts than other cebids. They pollinate flowers and trees, dispersing pollen and seeds as they move through the forest.
PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS: These monkeys average about 7 pounds; males are 1-2 pounds heavier than females. Adults measure 19-20 inches with tails about 17 inches long. They have brown to red-brown fur with black hands, feet, and tail ends, and a crest of black hair on top of the head. Their typical, New World, “platyrrhine” faces feature rounded nostrils facing outward and a broader nasal septum than Old World monkeys. Only the last part of the fully furred tail is prehensile, and provides support on tree branches. Capuchins have some color vision, and good hearing and sense of smell. Capuchins have the most dexterous hands of any new world monkey, with functionally (but not fully) opposable thumbs, allowing them to grasp and manipulate objects. Their brains are well-developed and extremely large compared to their body weight; probably because they eat more protein than most other monkeys their size.
Not Just "Monkey-ing" Around
Capuchins are the only monkeys known to hit harder nuts on trees or rocks to crack them open, a form of natural tool use. Captive capuchins have been observed using small branches to remove ants from containers. In addition, these monkeys have complex communication skills involving vocalizations, body movements, teeth-grinding, smells, facial expressions, and touching. They growl, bark, scream, chatter, and whistle, and use the eyebrows, eyes, teeth, and mouth to show submission, aggression, fear, or affiliation. Capuchins groom each other to strengthen social bonds.
Active during the day, crested capuchins spend most of their time in the trees, but may also forage on the ground. Their troops of 5-20 members consist of an older dominant male, many females, other younger males, and offspring. Adults have multiple mates, but the dominant male usually fathers and protects the young. Females breed about every two years, are pregnant for 5-6 months, and produce one infant. These capuchins may live over 40 years in captivity; average lifespan is somewhat shorter in the wild.