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Cebus capucinus [sE' buhs kap oo chin' uhs]
White-faced capuchins are 13 to 20 inches in length, not including their tail, which is 14 to 20 inches long. Like other capuchins, they have a tuft of hair on their head that is similar to the cowl (capuche) worn by Franciscan monks. They are distinguished from other capuchins by the white hair on their face and throat.
Distribution and Habitat
The white-faced capuchin is found in the northwestern coastal areas of Colombia, north through Honduras. It lives in upland forests, mostly primary or advanced secondary rainforest, and occasionally in mangrove or dry forests.
Habits and Behaviors
White-faced capuchins live in troops numbering from six to twenty individuals, most of whom are related females and their offspring. They are highly territorial, but ranges of different troops may overlap.
White-faced capuchins are almost completely arboreal, only coming to the ground for water and the occasional tidbit of food. When they travel together they move in a specific order, juvenile males and females going first, then adult males and females, and lastly pregnant females. Each troop keeps to regular tracks through the forest, but several troops may share a track; different troops use the track at different times, however. When the group separates to find food, individuals keep in contact with each other with calls and other vocalizations.
Capuchins are diurnal, foraging most of the day except for a mid-day nap.
Capuchins are considered the most intelligent of the New World monkeys. They have been seen using tools such as stones in order to open oysters and nuts. Their willingness and ability to learn has made them one of the most commonly used monkeys in laboratories studying intelligence.
Capuchins have the most varied diet of the New World monkeys, feeding on fruits, nuts, berries, seeds, flowers, buds, shoots, bark, gums, arachnids, insects, small vertebrates and birds, eggs, and even oysters and crabs. They are picky eaters, picking out grubs from fruit and testing for ripeness by smelling and squeezing.
Capuchins are generally year-round breeders, but births may peak during the dry season or early rainy season. Females give birth every two years if the infant survives; every year if the infant dies before the next breeding season. Although twin births do occur, single births are much more common. The gestation period is about six months.
When the infant is young it clings to its mother's front when she travels; as it gets older it will ride on its mother's back. If the infant becomes separated from its mother, another adult will carry it back to its mother. Females reach sexual maturity at about four years, males at about eight years. They live from 15 to 25 years in the wild, up to 40 years in captivity.
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This page was last updated on June 15, 2017.