Common Squirrel Monkey

Common Squirrel Monkey

Saimiri sciureus
Population size
Life Span
21-27 yrs
35 km/h
0.5-0.75 kg
32 cm

The Common squirrel monkey is a New World monkey with a squirrel-like appearance, endemic to tropical areas of South America. This primate can be found in countries such as Bolivia and Venezuela. Around 10 years ago, this species was also introduced to Southern Florida, where these animals successfully reproduce. Additionally, a group of these monkeys have been recently spotted in Rio de Janeiro, evidently as a result of escape from an illegal pet trade capture.


Common squirrel monkeys are endemic to tropical forests of South America (Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Suriname, Venezuela), typically occurring in the middle level of the rainforest canopy, although they may be found at different levels when looking for food and shelter. The ideal habitat for this species is wet areas with marshlands and swamps, although some populations also inhabit savannahs.

Common Squirrel Monkey habitat map

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

These monkeys are highly social creatures, forming large troops of up to 300 individuals, although most contain only 40 - 50 animals. Each such troop generally consists of females, although multiple males are always present. Social hierarchy in this species is not pronounced, but males are noticeably more dominant than females. When moving through forest, a group of these primates makes a loud noise. Overall, the social structure of this species varies between populations in different regions. Group members don't practice mutual grooming to enhance social bonds. Common squirrel monkeys are known to cooperate with the Brown capuchins, helping each other to find food and escape predators. As diurnal animals, the Common squirrel monkeys sleep in groups at night, being active during the daytime hours, when these groups split into smaller sub-groups to forage. The communication system of these monkeys includes a wide variety of calls.

Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

As omnivorous animals, the Common squirrel monkeys consume food of both plant and animal origin, including fruit, berries, flowers, nectar as well as various insects.

Mating Habits

September-November, births in February-April
150-170 days
1 infant
10 months

Common squirrel monkeys are polygynandrous (promiscuous), which means that multiple males mate indiscriminately with multiple females. As reproductive season starts, males usually gain weight and become more active, fiercely competing over females. The winner eventually mates with majority of females. The breeding season lasts from September to November, while most births occur in February-April. A single infant is born after 150 - 170 days of gestation. The newborn baby is cared for only by its mother. It travels on the back of its mother for the first 5 - 10 weeks after birth, at which point the infant starts to occasionally leave its mother, exploring the surroundings. Independence is reached at 10 months old. The age of sexual maturity is 2 years old in females and 4 years old in males.


Population threats

Although these primates aren't currently threatened with extinction, they do suffer from destruction of their natural habitat. Additionally, the Common squirrel monkeys are used in laboratories as well as captured and sold as a pet species. Nevertheless, despite the above-mentioned factors, the overall population of these animals remains stable during the last several decades.

Population number

According to IUCN, the Common squirrel monkey is widespread throughout its range but no overall population estimate is available. According to the Wikipedia resource, in the 1980s, 500 and 1000 Common squirrel monkeys remained in the shuttered Masterpiece Gardens Park in Polk County. Currently, the species is classified as Least Concern (LC), although its numbers are decreasing.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • Squirrel monkeys are known to have the largest brain for their body mass among all of the world's primates. The massive brain of these animals is double the proportion of human brain.
  • These agile primates are able to take long horizontal leaps of as long as 2 meters.
  • Only young individuals of this species exhibit a prehensile tail, whereas adults typically use this part of their body as a prop, helping them balance.
  • When sleeping, they bend forward while their tails are curled between the legs, covering their shoulders.
  • These monkeys use a unique method of scent marking known as urine washing: this is when an animal urinates on its hands and then rubs it on its tail.
  • They easily detect fruits among dense vegetation of their forest habitat due to well-developed eyesight, allowing them to recognize colors.
  • Group members use 25 - 30 various vocalizations to communicate with each other. They also give out certain calls when foraging, threatened as well as during the reproductive season.


1. Common Squirrel Monkey Wikipedia article -
2. Common Squirrel Monkey on The IUCN Red List site -

More Fascinating Animals to Learn About