Spider Monkeys
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“Spider Monkeys,” Friend, May 1984, 40


Spider Monkeys

A father monkey swings from tree to tree. He is only one of many spider monkeys swarming through the trees. On a nearby branch the mother rests with her baby.

Spider monkeys aren’t content to just swing from tree to tree in search of food. They like to do tricks. Besides making leaps as far as thirty feet, these monkeys—especially the “teenagers”—hang from branches by their tails and wrestle with each other.

Sometimes while the father is resting, he hangs by his tail. A spider monkey is about two feet long, and its tail is even longer than its body. The tail has small ridges and no hair on its underside, which enables it to grasp things even more securely than the spider monkey can grasp them with its hands or feet. Hanging by its tail, this inhabitant of rain forests from southern Mexico to Uruguay looks like a giant spider swinging in the air. And when a spider monkey travels along a tree limb, the joints of its legs stick up like those of a spider.

The spider monkey has a small head with a hairless face. The rest of its body is covered with straggly hair that varies in color from red to jet black. An adult spider monkey may weigh up to fifteen pounds.

The father hears distant barking by other spider monkeys in his group. Monkeys close to him take up the barking. This communication tells the rest of the group that some of its members have found food. It also helps keep the group together when they cannot see each other. Spider monkeys usually travel together in a group of from ten to forty monkeys. With as many as two hundred spider monkeys moving about in the trees within a square mile, the barks help each one keep in contact with its own group.

The entire group of monkeys chatter and eat until midmorning. They move around, looking for fruit, nuts, flowers, and insects. Suddenly a different-sounding bark warns them that another group of monkeys is invading their territory. Immediately the eating stops and the eaters bark loud threats, shake branches, and throw broken branches and twigs at the intruders. Then, when the other monkeys pass on through without taking up the challenge, the first group goes back to feeding.

During the hottest part of the day, the spider monkeys take a siesta. Then they spend the rest of the afternoon and evening searching for more food and eating.

At the end of the day, the group returns to the same “sleeping trees” they have been using for the last week or so. The next day they will move farther into the rain forest and begin a search for different trees in which to sleep, find food, explore, and play.

Illustrated by Dick Brown