Among the many capuchin species, the white-faced capuchins are New World (Cebidae) monkeys native to the forests of Central and South America. These smart, sociable monkeys are live in the treetops, where they spend their time devising games and foraging for food.
White-faced capuchins have white fur on their upper bodies and arms, which is where they get their name, while their backs and lower bodies are covered in black fur. They have a distinctive V-shape black marking on the tops of their heads. Despite their name, their faces are covered in tan, rather than white, skin. Their prehensile tails aid in carrying food and supporting the creatures. Adult males can weigh up to 8.8 pounds, while females weigh only 6.6 pounds.
White-faced capuchins live in mangroves and a variety of forest types, but prefer dry deciduous forests and tropical rainforests. They inhabit the forests of Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador and Argentina, giving them one of the largest natural ranges of any New World monkey species.
These monkeys live on a diet of 50 percent to 80 percent fruit, 20 percent to 30 percent animal material, and 10 percent plant material. Animals they eat may include squirrels, rats, lizards and birds. Plant material consists of seeds and flower buds. Young capuchins are able to forage and feed themselves as well as adults can by the age of 1 year.
White-faced capuchins are diurnal, which means they're active during the day. They are energetic, intelligent, highly social creatures who play games, use tools to gather food and defend themselves, and use vocalizations to communicate with one another. They live in groups of three to 30, averaging 18 to 20. Each group contains multiple males and multiple females, the females remaining within a single group their entire lives and males seeking out new groups around age 4.
Threats and Predators
Natural predators of the white-faced capuchin monkey include tree boas, big cats such as jaguars and ocelots, and large birds of prey. When a group of capuchins is threatened, the group will act together to mob the predator or use vocal calls to warn other monkeys of the predator's presence. Despite the species being hunted for food by other animals and local humans, the white-faced capuchin population is not endangered or threatened.
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Margot Freeman has been a writer since 2009. She currently works in social media within the tech industry, and has been volunteering with acclaimed Austin, Texas animal shelter Austin Pets Alive! since 2010. Freeman holds a Bachelor of science in audio and media technology.