- The Animal Encyclopedia for Kids

Squirrel Monkey

Squirrel Monkey Facts

Size Up to 12.5 inch (32 cm)
Speed Up to 21.7 mph (35 km/h)
Weight Up to 3 lb (1.4 kg)
Lifespan 15-20 years
Food Fruit, leaves, little animals
Predators Birds of prey, snakes
Habitat South America
Order Primates
Family Cebidae
Scientific name Saimiri
Characteristics Face resembles a skull

Main Characteristics

Squirrel monkeys are little primates living in large groups in the forests of South America. They are active during the day and spend most of their time in the trees. They run on all fours and use their tail to balance on branches. They are close relatives to the capuchin monkeys.

Anatomy and Appearance

Their Tail is Longer Than their Body

The body of a playful squirrel monkey is not larger than 12.5 inch (32 cm). With a length of up to 16 inch (41 cm), their tail is even longer than their body.

Squirrel Monkey Squirrel Monkey - Photo: l i g h t p o e t/Shutterstock


Are Squirrel Monkeys Good Climbers?

Squirrel monkeys can't use their tails to grab onto things like branches as the chameleon can. Nevertheless, its tail is very useful for them, because it helps them balance on thin branches.

Are Squirrel Monkey Aggressive?

By the way: Squirrel monkeys are rather amicable. Many other animals indulge in fierce territorial fights, but squirrel monkeys prefer to keep out of harm’s way. This is rather clever, as there is enough space for all animals.

Squirrel Monkeys Use Scent Marks

Just imagine the following situation: You fixed a date to meet a friend at a certain place. But your friend did not turn up. Now you would like to leave him a message that you were there. If you were a squirrel monkey, you would pee on your hands and feet and then walk about on all fours at the meeting point, so that your friend could smell that you were there. Luckily, we have smartphones ...!

Squirrel Monkey Squirrel Monkey - Photo: Anna Kucherova/Shutterstock


During the mating season, male squirrel monkeys fight against each other. Afterwards, the strongest male monkey can mate with most female animals. After the birth of a baby monkey, the male monkey loses most of its influence. From the first day onwards, the young monkey rides on the back of its mother. After about two months it starts to explore its environment on its own. After ten months, the young monkey no longer depends on its mother.

Squirrel Monkey Squirrel Monkey - Photo: Anna Kucherova/Shutterstock

Fun Facts

Why Are They Called Squirrel Monkeys?

They are called squirrel monkeys because they are as agile and move as quickly as squirrels. In Germany they are named "Totenkopf-Äffchen" (skull monkeys), because their face resembles a skull. Take a closer look: Their eyes are black, the fur on their face is white, and their nose and mouth are gray. Can you see the skull in its face?

Squirrel Monkeys Are Patient

Scientists had some capuchin monkeys play a video game in 2020. The animals didn't always succeed, but even if they didn't get a reward, they kept playing. They were dying to win the game. This is fairly unusual in the animal kingdom, because trying something in vain takes a lot of time and effort. The scientists believe, that sometimes it is more important for the animals to be patient – for example when trying to find a partner or to finish building the nest.

The Squirrel Monkey Is Related To:

  • Capuchin Monkeys

Animals in the Same Biome:

Squirrel Monkey Squirrel Monkey - Photo: Kjersti Joergensen/Shutterstock


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