The Black-capped squirrel monkey is a South American squirrel monkey that is very popular in zoos around the world. These monkeys have short and dense fur. Their face is white, and their ears, throat, head, back and legs are yellow to olive in color. Infants in this species are born with a prehensile tail but lose this ability when growing. Adulats use their long tail as a balance when they are jumping from one brach to another through the trees.
Black-capped squirrel monkeys are arboreal and diurnal animals. They usually occur in the canopy among the small branches and sometimes come down to the forest floor. These monkeys are very social and live in groups ranging from 10 to 550 individuals, but an average size is usually 40-50 individuals. Within the groups they establish hierarchies of dominance. Black-capped squirrel monkeys are very playful creatures. Playing is common between mothers with their offspring, immature individuals and even adults also play with other adults. Such behavior is rarely seen in nature among other primates. In order to communicate with each other these monkeys use many different vocalizations. Among these calls are chirps and peeps which are used when monkeys are alarmed; squawks and purrs are heard during the breeding season; barks are signs of aggression, and screams are used when individuals are in pain.
Black-capped squirrel monkeys are omnivores and eat both plants and animals. They consume fruits, berries, seeds and gum, frogs, bats, spiders, bird eggs, and other small insects and animals.
Black-capped squirrel monkeys are polygynandrous (promiscuous) which means that both males and females mate with multiple partners during the breeding season. These monkeys breed once per year and their breeding season lasts three months. Females give birth to a single infant after the gestation period that lasts 150-170 days. When the infant is born the mother protects her baby and provides all the care. Other females in the group will also help in raising young. Such behavior is called "aunting. Infants are weaned between 4 and 6 months of age and become independent at around 1 year. Females reach reproductive maturity at around 2,5-3 years of age. Males usually leave the subgroup of females with young at this age and form their own subgroup in the troop that will consist of immature males. When 5 years old, they will join the mature male subgroup and will be able to compete for dominance.
The main threat to Black-capped squirrel monkey sat present is hunting for food and for the pet trade. They also suffer from habitat loss and may be captured for medical research.
The IUCN Red List and other sources do not provide the Black-capped squirrel monkey total population size, but this animal is common and widespread throughout its known range. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List but its numbers today are decreasing.
By feeding upon fruits and seeds, these monkeys act as important seed dispersers of their range, thus contributing to the regeneration of the forest. They also consume insects and this way may control the insect population.