White-faced Capuchins

Arguably the smartest & most widely distributed monkeys in America, white-faced capuchin monkeys live in complex social groups characterised by a clear hierarchical system

Taxonomy

Scientific name: Cebus capucinus 

C. capucinus is a specie of New World Monkey (Platyrrhini), of the family Cebidae, subfamily Cebinae, and the genus Cebus. They are commonly referred to as white-headed capuchins, or white-faced capuchins. 

 

Geographic range

The white-faced capuchins can adapt to a variety of habitats, and have one of the widest geographic distributions of all New World monkeys. It’s largely distributed in the Neotropic, particularly in Central America. It’s native to Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama; although its’ distribution extends to Colombia, Ecuador and even further down South America. Some individuals have been reported in Argentina. 

Habitat

They prefer mature primary forests or advanced secondary forests. Although they can be found in evergreen and deciduous forests, dry and moist forests, and mangrove or montane forests. 

Longevity

The lifespan of white-faced capuchins in captivity can be up to 55 years, in the wild it’s approximately only half of that, up to maximum 33 years. This is because of the risk factors in the wild threatening survival, such as predators, diseases, and wound infections. 

Diet

Like the good frugivores they are, their diet consists mainly on fruits and dried seeds. They prefer rip fruits, and when fruits are not in season they complement their diets with plants and young leaves, flowers, and seeds. To a smaller extent they also consume a variety of animals like spiders, birds, crabs, squirrels, lizards, and other small mammals and reptiles.

Behavior

White-faced capuchins live in complex multi-male/multi-female social groups, of around 20 to 40 individuals. Groups are formed by an alpha male, females (related to each other), subordinate and immigrant males from other troops, and infants. In their matrifocal societies males migrate from their natal groups, and there’s philopatry among the females, who remain in their natal groups for life. 

Females are organised in a linear, stable system of hierarchical dominance; where usually a female will groom another female who is above her in the group hierarchy.

 Both males and females form alliances and coalitions with other members of their same sex; coalitions can be either aggressive or defensive. These social bonds must be tested and reinforced through grooming, and social rituals. Coalitions are crucial to ensure survival, thus, capuchins have developed plenty of social traditions and bond-testing rituals. 

Fun facts

  • Capuchins are extractive foragers.
  • They use tools like rocks to crack open nuts and other food items. 
  • Compared to their relative body size, white-faced capuchins have one of the biggest brain sizes of all the primates in the world.

Reproduction

They have a polygyandry (promiscuous) mating system, in which both males and females have multiple mating partners. After a gestation period of approx. 160 days females give birth to only one baby, and have intervals of 2 years between pregnancies. Mothers take care of all parental duties, but they receive help from other females of the group who provide alloparental care for their babies. Females reach sexual maturity at around 7 years old, and males at around 8 to 10 years old.