Spider monkeys have a very wide geographical distribution, being found from southern Mexico through most tropical regions of Central and South America. They live mostly up in the trees but this does not mean that they cannot move about on the ground like other New World primates. Typically they are found swinging and feeding in the tallest and largest forest trees. There is some debate as to how many spider monkey species there are–some authorities want to place all spider monkeys in a single species whereas others recognize 5 species.
Spider monkeys have an unusual social structure. They live in relatively closed social units called “communities”, which are composed of some 18-30 members but, unlike howler monkeys, spider monkeys do not travel through the forest and feed as a cohesive social unit. On the Costa Maya only a few spider monkeys move about the forest together at any one time, then the entire group may come together late in the day, and are often all seen playing, grooming, or fighting in the early evening.
Spider monkeys are dietary specialists in that the great majority of their food is ripe fruits. Because ripe fruits tend to be distributed on relatively few trees in the forest, spider monkeys are forced to break up into subgroups each day to feed–each subgroup moving to a certain number of fruiting trees within the home range area of the total community each day. Spider monkeys eat a wide array of different plant species, consuming foods from over 125 different plant species per year. They will eat large quantities of food over a relatively short period of time and tend to feed while hanging, climbing or moving.
Like human infants, young spider monkeys have a very long period of maternal dependence. Spider monkey infants are black when born and tend to have large naked pink areas around the eyes; they remain tiny and fairly helpless until they are almost a year old. Infants are carried by the mother until two years of age and continue to associate and travel with the mother for at least 3.5 years. Spider Monkeys reach sexually maturity between the ages of 4 and 5 with females migrating to other groups more often than males. In the wild of the Costa Maya Spider Monkeys are under more pressure to survive and therefore may not live as long as their counter parts in captivity whose lifespan ranges from 30-40 years.
Spider monkeys are the acrobats of New World primates. Unlike other New World monkeys, they rarely travel about on all fours but rather move by brachiating, swinging the body down and around the grasping hand and using their prehensile tail as a fifth hand. This quick and agile type of locomotion allows Spider Monkeys to maneuver easily through the trees on Costa Maya.
Help keep the Spider Monkey population on the Costa Maya alive and well. Don’t chase or capture any animals that you happen to see. Feel free to take a lot of pictures and send us a few to put up on our website!