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Overview

Brief Summary

The capuchin monkeys, formerly all placed in the genus Cebus, are now often separated into two genera, Cebus (for the gracile or untufted capuchins) and Sapajus (for the robust or tufted capuchins). Although the distinction between these two groups was well established by the mid-20th century, the delineation of species and subspecies has been less stable.  Until the early 21st century, however, four species of capuchins were generally recognized: White-faced Capuchin (C. capucinus), White-fronted Capuchin (C. albifrons), the Weeper Capuchin (C. olivaceus or nigrovittatus), and a single robust species, the Brown Capuchin (C. apella). Within these species, various subspecies were often recognized. Based on more recent work, however, including molecular phylogenetic studies, Rylands and Mittermeier (2013) recognized 14 species of Cebus (and eight Sapajus), with the clear understanding that this is unlikely to be the last word on capuchin taxonomy as additional samples and data are acquired and analyzed. They recognized two species of white-faced capuchins, the Colombian White-faced Capuchin (C. capucinus), occurring from northwestern Ecuador to eastern Panama, and the Panamanian White-faced Capuchin (C. imitator), ocurring from western Panama to Honduras (and possibly Belize). See Rylands and Mittermeier (2013) for a review of capuchin biology and systematics and references to key literature.

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Distribution

Cebus capucinus is native to Central America in the Neotropical Region. They are found in Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, and along the coast of Columbia and Ecuador. Some individuals have been reported as far south as Argentina. This species has one of the widest ranges of all New World monkeys.

Biogeographic Regions: neotropical (Native )

  • Estrada, A., P. Garber, M. Pavelka, L. Luecke. 2006. New perspectives in the study of Mesoamerican primates : distribution, ecology, behavior, and conservation. New York: Springer.
  • Grzimek, B., K. Gold. 2004. New World monkeys I: Squirrel monkeys and capuchins. Pp. 101-113 in Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia, Vol. 14, 2nd Edition. Farmington Hills, Mi: Gale.
  • Kinzey, W. 1997. New World primates : ecology, evolution, and behavior. New York: Aldine de Gruyter.
  • Miller, L. 2002. Eat or be Eaten: Predator Sensitive Foraging Among Primates. United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press.
  • Moynihan, M. 1976. The New World Primates: adaptive radiation and the evolution of social behavior, languages, and intelligence. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
  • Perry, S. 2003. In The Biology of Traditions: Models and Evidence. Cambridge: University of Camrbridge Press. Accessed September 13, 2008 at http://www.eva.mpg.de/phylogen/pdf/chapter.pdf.
  • Richard, A. 1985. Primates In Nature. United States: W. H. Freeman and Company.
  • Smuts, B., D. Cheney, R. Seyfarth, R. Wrangham, T. Struhsaker. 1987. Primate Societies. United States: The University of Chicago Press.
  • Wolfheim, J. 1983. Primates of the world: distribution, abundance, and conservation. Seattle, Washington: University of Washington Press.
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Physical Description

Morphology

White-faced capuchins have distinctive markings that distinguish them from other capuchin monkeys. Their dorsum and hindquarters are solid black, while the upper chest, forearms, and the fur around the face are white. They have tan-colored facial skin and a black cap on their heads.  White-faced capuchins have prehensile tails, used for grasping and carrying food and for added postural support. They reach their full adult size by age 8. Males weigh between 3 and 4 kg and females weigh between 2 and 3 kg. This is the greatest degree of sexual dimorphism among the capuchins. They are primarily quadrupedal, but are also excellent leapers and climbers.

Range mass: 2 to 4 kg.

Range length: 435 (high) mm.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: male larger

  • Gerber, P., J. Rehg. 1999. The Ecological Role of the Prehensile Tail in White-Faced Capuchins (Cebus capucinus). American Journal of Physical Anthropology, Volume: 110 Issue: 3: 325-339.
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Type Information

Type for Cebus capucinus
Catalog Number: USNM 16084
Collection: Smithsonian Institution, National Museum of Natural History, Department of Vertebrate Zoology, Division of Mammals
Sex/Stage: Male; Adult
Preparation: Skin; Skull
Collector(s): C. Townsend
Year Collected: 1887
Locality: Segovia River [= Rio Coco], Cabo Gracias a Dios, mouth of Rio Segovia, border with Nicaragua (see Hershkovitz 1949:347), Gracias a Dios, Honduras, North America
  • Type: Hollister, N. 1914 May 11. Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington. 27: 105.
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Ecology

Habitat

White-faced capuchins are highly adaptable and occupy a wide range of habitats. They live in a variety of wet, dry, primary, and secondary forests, but prefer tropical evergreens and dry deciduous forests. White-faced capuchins have a preference for close-canopied forests up to as high as 2100 m but mainly occupy the middle strata around 1100 m. They are common in areas high in humidity and well-drained lowlands. Occasionally, they have been found in volcanic foothills and coastal plains.

Range elevation: 0 to 2100 m.

Average elevation: 1100 m.

Habitat Regions: tropical ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: forest ; rainforest

Other Habitat Features: riparian

  • Eisenberg, J. 1989. Mammals of the Neotropics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
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Trophic Strategy

White-faced capuchins eat a wide variety of plants and animals. Their primary diet is a variety of fruits and nuts, but insects, other invertebrates, and small vertebrates are taken opportunistically. Vertebrates eaten include squirrels, tree rats, lizards, and birds. The diet varies regionally and seasonally, but generally consists of about 50 to 80% fruit, 20 to 30% animal material, and 10% other plant material. White-faced capuchins eat frequently and are adventurous in their food choices. They will try almost anything once and learn through trial and error about what is edible or desirable. One study showed that they ate 63 different plant species from 34 families at Santa Rosa Park. They are excellent foragers from a very young age. As young as 1 year old they are able to seek out food almost as well as adults, their only limitations being size and strength.

Animal Foods: birds; mammals; amphibians; reptiles; insects; terrestrial non-insect arthropods

Plant Foods: seeds, grains, and nuts; fruit; flowers; sap or other plant fluids

Primary Diet: herbivore (Frugivore ); omnivore

  • Chapman, C., L. Fedigan. 1990. Dietary Differences between Neighboring Cebus Capucinus Groups: Local traditions, Food availability or responses to food profitability. Folia Primatologica, 54/3-4: 177-186.
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Associations

White-faced capuchins play an important role in seed dispersal, influencing forest regeneration.  Blood-born nematode (roundworm) parasites of this monkey include: Microfilaria panamensis, Tetrapetalonema panamensis, and Dipetalonema obtusa.

Ecosystem Impact: disperses seeds

Commensal/Parasitic Species:

  • Microfilaria panamensis
  • Tetrapetalonema panamensis
  • Dipetalonema obtusa

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The most common predators of white-face capuchins are snakes, especially tree boas (Corallus) and lanceheads (Bothrops). Caimans, cats, such as jaguars and ocelots and large raptors, such as harpy eagles, also prey on these capuchins. White-face capuchins sound alarm calls when they spot a predator. Living in tight-knit social groups helps them to stay vigilant against predators. Groups threatened by a predator will either flee or mob the predator.

Known Predators:

  • tree boas (Corallus)
  • lanceheads (Bothrops)
  • caimans (Caiman)
  • jaguars (Panthera onca)
  • ocelots (Leopardus pardalis)
  • harpy eagles (Harpia harpyja)

Anti-predator Adaptations: cryptic

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Life History and Behavior

Behavior

White-faced capuchins are highly social and communication is very important. Individuals spend a great deal of time in social bonding and establishing trust. And example is hand-sniffing, where one monkey will stick his/her fingers in the other monkey's nose and then other monkey repeats the activity. This can last for several minutes and is done with a trance-like expression. They may also suck on each other's fingers and tails for long periods of time. White-faced capuchins also play mouth games, where one individual will insert something into their mouth, whether it be the other monkey's finger, a patch of fur, or some inanimate object. The object of this game is to pry the item out of the others mouth, and then the object is either placed back in the mouth to start a new game, or they take turns and switch roles. When predators approach, white-faced capuchins use trill vocalizations to coordinate movement in the group. A different alarm call is used to alert others that a predator or intruder in nearby.

Communication Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

Other Communication Modes: mimicry

Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

  • Radick, G. 2007. The Simian Tongue: The Long Debate about Animal Language. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press.
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Life Expectancy

White-faced capuchin maximum lifespan in captivity is 55 years. Wild lifespan may be less than half of that. Factors such as predation, disease, and infection from wounds sustained while fighting are all responsible for many deaths each year. Tree removal, logging, and clearcutting are indirectly the leading cause of white-face capuchin death by drastically reducing suitable habitats.

Range lifespan

Status: captivity:
55 (high) years.

Typical lifespan

Status: wild:
30 (high) years.

Typical lifespan

Status: captivity:
45 (high) years.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 54 years (captivity) Observations: One wild-born male called "Bobo" lived 53.5 years in captivity, making it at least 54 years of age when he died at Lederle Laboratories. While this is the only record of a specimen of this genus to live more than 50 years, another wild-born male specimen lived 46.9 years at Mesker Park Zoo, making it about 48 years-old when he died and making it the second longest-lived specimen of the genus (Richard Weigl 2005).
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Reproduction

White-faced capuchins are polygamous, with males and females having multiple partners. There is a dominance hierarchy among males, with alpha males having more mating opportunities. However, subordinate males are also allowed to mate. Alpha males spend a large portion of their time engaged in deterring predators and males from outside groups. Providing his group with this protection gives the alpha male precedence over the other males in mating opportunities. Males and females engage in a set of specific vocalizations, facial expressions, and postures before copulation.

Mating System: polygynandrous (promiscuous)

Females give birth to a single offspring at about 2 year intervals. Breeding is seasonal, with peak female fertility from January to April. Mating occurs outside of these months but rarely results in conceptions. Gestation last for an average of 160 days. Adult females become sexually mature around age 4, but typically don't give birth until age 7. Males become sexually mature at 7 to 10 years old.

Breeding interval: White-faced capuchins breed year-round, though females only conceive once every 2 years, on average.

Breeding season: Peak breeding is between January and April.

Range number of offspring: 1 (high) .

Average number of offspring: 1.

Range gestation period: 157 to 167 days.

Average gestation period: 160 days.

Range weaning age: 2 to 4 months.

Range time to independence: 4 to 8 years.

Average time to independence: 7 years.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 4 to 7 years.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 5 years.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 7 to 10 years.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 8 years.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization ; viviparous

Primary care for infants is provided by the mother. Females carry, protect, and feed the young until they are able to take care of themselves. Males do not help with care of infants, but may assist young in the social hierarchy once they are independent. Alpha males help to protect members of their group from intruders and predators.

Parental Investment: altricial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Male, Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Male, Female); post-independence association with parents; extended period of juvenile learning

  • Eisenberg, J. 1989. Mammals of the Neotropics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Estrada, A., P. Garber, M. Pavelka, L. Luecke. 2006. New perspectives in the study of Mesoamerican primates : distribution, ecology, behavior, and conservation. New York: Springer.
  • Grzimek, B., K. Gold. 2004. New World monkeys I: Squirrel monkeys and capuchins. Pp. 101-113 in Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopedia, Vol. 14, 2nd Edition. Farmington Hills, Mi: Gale.
  • Kinzey, W. 1997. New World primates : ecology, evolution, and behavior. New York: Aldine de Gruyter.
  • Smuts, B., D. Cheney, R. Seyfarth, R. Wrangham, T. Struhsaker. 1987. Primate Societies. United States: The University of Chicago Press.
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Conservation

Conservation Status

White-face capuchins are widespread and their populations are not currently considered threatened. The main pressures they face are habitat degradation, deforestation, and being hunted for food.

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: appendix ii

State of Michigan List: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

White-faced capuchins can be carriers of various diseases while in the wild, and because they are caught for the pet trade, these disease can be transmitted to humans. White-faced capuchins are known carriers of malaria and microfilaria. These diseases appear to be more prevalent in infants and juveniles, possibly because of their weaker immune systems. White-faced capuchins can also eat fruit crops.

Negative Impacts: crop pest; causes or carries domestic animal disease

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White-face capuchins are hunted for food and commonly kept as pets and collected in zoos. Most capuchins in zoos are bred in captivity; few are from the wild.

Positive Impacts: pet trade ; food ; research and education

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Wikipedia

White-headed capuchin

The white-headed capuchin (Cebus capucinus), also known as the white-faced capuchin or white-throated capuchin, is a medium-sized New World monkey of the family Cebidae, subfamily Cebinae. Native to the forests of Central America and the extreme north-western portion of South America, the white-headed capuchin is important to rainforest ecology for its role in dispersing seeds and pollen.

Among the best known monkeys, the white-headed capuchin is recognized as the typical companion to the organ grinder. In recent years the species has become popular in North American media. It is a highly intelligent monkey and has been trained to assist paraplegic persons. It is a medium-sized monkey, weighing up to 3.9 kg (8.6 lb). It is mostly black, but with a pink face and white on much of the front part of the body, giving it its common name. It has a distinctive prehensile tail that is often carried coiled up and is used to help support the monkey when it is feeding beneath a branch.

In the wild, the white-headed capuchin is versatile, living in many different types of forest, and eating many different types of food, including fruit, other plant material, invertebrates, and small vertebrates. It lives in troops that can exceed 20 animals and include both males and females. It is noted for its tool use, including rubbing plants over its body in an apparent use of herbal medicine, and also using tools as weapons and for getting to food. It is a long-lived monkey, with a maximum recorded age of over 54 years.

Taxonomy[edit]

Some authorities consider this a member of the subspecies Cebus capucinus imitator.

The white-headed capuchin was one of the many species originally described by Linnaeus in his 18th century work, Systema Naturae.[4] It is a member of the family Cebidae, the family of New World monkeys containing capuchin monkeys, squirrel monkeys, tamarins and marmosets. It is the type species for the genus Cebus, the genus that includes all the capuchin monkeys.[5] It is a member of the C. capucinus species group within the genus Cebus, a group that also includes the white-fronted capuchin, the weeper capuchin and the Kaapori capuchin.[5]

There is disagreement among primatologists about whether there are any subspecies of white-headed capuchin. Some authorities consider there to be three subspecies of white-headed capuchin, based on small differences in appearance:[3]

However, other authorities do not recognize any separate subspecies, and regard C. c. imitator and C. c. limitaneus as synonyms of C. capucinus.[1]

Physical description[edit]

Like other monkeys in the genus Cebus, the white-headed capuchin is named after the order of Capuchin friars – the cowls of these friars closely resemble the monkey's head coloration.[6][7] The white-headed capuchin has mostly black fur, with white to yellow like fur on the neck, throat, chest, shoulders, and upper arms.[8] The face is pink or a white-cream color and may have identifying marks such as dark brows or dark fur patches.[8][9][10] An area of black fur on the crown of the head is distinctive.[8][11] It has a prehensile tail that is often held coiled, giving the white-headed capuchin the nickname "ringtail".[8][12]

Adults reach a length of between 335 and 453 mm (13.2 and 17.8 in), excluding tail, and a weight of up to 3.9 kg (8.6 lb).[8][11] The tail is longer than the body, at up to 551 mm (21.7 in) in length.[8][11] Males are about 27% larger than females.[13] The brain of a white-headed capuchin is about 79.2 g (2.79 oz), which is larger than that of several larger monkey species, such as the Mantled Howler.[11][14]

Behavior[edit]

Social structure[edit]

Walking on four limbs

The white-headed capuchin is a diurnal and arboreal animal.[8] However, it does come down to the ground more often than many other New World monkeys.[15] It moves primarily by walking on all four limbs.[16] It lives in troops, or groups, of up to 40 monkeys (mean 16, range 4–40)[17] and has a male/female adult sex ratio of 0.71 on average (range 0.54–0.88).[17] With rare exceptions, females spend their entire lives with their female kin.[17][18][19] Males migrate to new social groups multiple times during the course of their lifetimes, migrating for the first time between 20 months and 11 years of age.[20][21] The median age of migration in the Santa Rosa population is 4.5 years.[20] Males sometimes migrate alone, but more often they migrate in the company of other males who are often their kin.[19][20][21] One of the unusual features of the kinship structure of the white-headed capuchin, relative to other primate species, is the high degree of relatedness within groups that results from the long tenures of alpha males who sire most of the offspring.[22][23] Alpha males have been known to keep their positions as long as 17 years in this species[22][23] and this puts them in the unusual position of being available to sire the offspring of their daughters and granddaughters, who produce their first offspring at about 6–7 years of age.[17][23] Typically, however, alpha males do not breed with their own daughters, even though they do sire virtually all offspring produced by females unrelated to them.[22] Those subordinate males who are allies of the alpha male in group defense are the males who sire the offspring of the alpha male's daughters. The high degree to which alpha males monopolize matings results in an unusually large number of paternal half-siblings and full siblings in this species relative to other primate species.[23]

Kinship is an important organizing factor in the structuring of female-female social relationships.[23] Particularly in larger groups, females preferentially associate with, groom, and provide coalitionary support to their matrilineally related female kin. They do not exhibit a similar preference for their paternal half sisters, which may mean that they only are capable of recognizing kinship through the maternal line.[23] Dominance rank is also an important organizing factor, with females more often grooming and associating with females who are closer to them in the dominance hierarchy.[23] Female-female dyads groom far more than male-female and male-male dyads.[24] Coalitionary aggression is common both among males and females, and capuchins seem to have an excellent understanding of the alliance structure in their group. For example, when capuchins are fighting, they sensibly recruit aid from someone who is both higher ranking than they are and also better friends with themselves than with their opponent.[25]

Female capuchins have linear dominance hierarchies.[24][26] In contrast to many Old World monkeys such as macaques, in which females socially inherit the rank just below their mothers and just above their next oldest sisters, capuchins do not have a highly predictable ranking within their matrilines.[23] Males are typically dominant to females.[27] The alpha male is always easy to discern, but there are sometimes ambiguous rankings among subordinate males.[19][28] Male-male relationships are tense, and affiliation between males is typically expressed by resting in contact, playing, or non-conceptive sex rather than by grooming.[28][29] Males cooperate in coalitions against potential predators, and also in defense of the group against other males.[19][28][30] Occasionally male coalitionary aggression becomes so violent that males are killed, particularly if they are encountered roaming the forest unaccompanied by allies.[19][31] Because aggression from other male capuchins is the leading cause of death (aside from poaching by humans, where there is contact between humans and capuchins), male allies are critical for self-defense during migration, and to assist in taking over other groups.[19] Male emigration to a new troop typically occurs about every 4 years, so most males are in constant danger of having to defend themselves against other groups of males.[7][32][32][33]

Immigrating males often kill young infants when they take over a group.[19][34][35] Females band together to defend their infants from infanticidal males, but they rarely succeed in saving their infants.[19] Because infants inhibit their mothers from ovulating by nursing frequently, males are able to bring females into estrus earlier by killing the infants and thereby terminating nursing; this has the effect of increasing their breeding opportunities.[19][35][36] Females do often mate with the killers of their infants, and with time, they typically become as supportive of the new alpha male as they had been of the previous one.[19] The alpha male helps defend females from subordinate males within the group as well as from infanticidal males from other groups.[19][37]

Interactions between groups[edit]

White-faced capuchin troops occupy home ranges of between 32 and 86 hectares (79 and 213 acres).[11] They travel between 1 and 3 kilometres (0.62 and 1.86 mi) daily, averaging 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) per day.[38] Although they engage in activity that has been described as "territorial", more recent research indicates that white-faced capuchin troops tend to behave aggressively to other white-faced capuchin troops regardless of where they meet, and the aggression is not necessarily intended to exclude the other troops from a specific home range.[39]

Home ranges overlap extensively,[40][41] so groups are not territorial in the strictest sense of the word. Perhaps because of the intensity of male-male competition and the threat of infanticide, interactions between groups are typically hostile: the males display aggressively toward one another and sometimes engage in physical aggression (even killing an opponent), while females grab their infants and run.[31][40] Typically, males are the primary participants in aggressive intergroup encounters, and it seems likely that males are defending access to the females in their groups.[40] Alpha males, who have the largest reproductive stake in the group, participate at a higher rate than subordinate males.[40] Groups with more males have an advantage over groups with fewer males, but the location of the encounter within the home range matters as well; smaller groups defeat larger groups when the contest occurs in the core or center area of the smaller group's home range.[41]

Interspecific interactions[edit]

The white-headed capuchin sometimes interacts with other sympatric monkey species. White-headed capuchins sometimes travel with and even groom Geoffroy's spider monkeys.[11][38] However, aggressive interactions between the capuchins and spider monkeys also occur.[42] Interactions between the white-headed capuchin and mantled howler are infrequent, and sometimes result in the capuchins threatening the larger howlers.[38] However, affiliative associations between the capuchins and howlers do sometimes occur, mostly involving juveniles playing together.[42]

Although South American capuchin species often travel with and feed together with squirrel monkeys, the white-headed capuchin only rarely associates with the Central American squirrel monkey. This appears to be related to the patchier, more dispersed distribution of food resources in Central America and the fact that there is less dietary overlap between the Central American squirrel monkey and the white-headed capuchin than between their South American counterparts. Therefore, there is less benefit to the Central American squirrel monkey in associating with the white-headed capuchin in order to exploit the capuchin's knowledge of food resource distribution. In addition, compared to their South American counterparts, male white-headed capuchins are relatively more alert to rival males than to predators, reducing the predator detection benefits that the Central American squirrel monkey receives from associating with the white-headed capuchin compared to its South American counterparts. Since the squirrel monkeys generally initiate interactions with the capuchins in South America, the fact that similar associations would impose higher foraging costs and impart fewer predator detection benefits to the Central American squirrel monkey leads to fewer associations with the white-headed capuchin.[13][43][44][45]

Several non-primate animal species tend to follow troops of white-faced monkeys or are otherwise attracted by their presence. white-lipped peccaries and common agoutis are attracted by feeding white-headed capuchins, looking for fruit that the capuchins drop.[38] Several species of bird are also known to follow white-headed capuchins looking for food. These include the double-toothed kite, the white hawk and the sharp-shinned hawk.[38]

Diet[edit]

The white-headed capuchin is an omnivore. Its primary foods are fruit and insects.[7] It forages at all levels of the forest, including the ground.[38] Methods for finding food include stripping bark off of trees, searching through leaf litter, breaking dead tree branches, rolling over rocks, and using stones as anvils to crack hard fruits.[46] Its prehensile tail assists with feeding, helping support the monkey when foraging for food below the branches.[38]

Foraging in the trees

Fruit can make up between 50% and 67% or more of the capuchin's diet.[7] In one study in Panama, white-headed capuchins ate 95 different fruit species.[7] Among its favorite fruits are figs from the family Moraceae, mangos and related fruits from the family Anacardiaceae, the bean-like fruits from the family Leguminosae and fruits from the family Rubiaceae.[47] It generally only eats ripe fruit, testing for ripeness by smelling, tasting and prodding the fruit.[7] It typically eats only the pulp and juice, spitting out the seeds and fibers.[7] Other plant matter eaten includes flowers, young leaves, seeds of certain plants, and bromeliads.[7][48] It also uses the bromelids as a water source, drinking the water that gets trapped inside.[7] In Carara National Park the capuchins have a varied diet in addition to the above of banana fruits and flowers, heliconia seeds, huevos de caballo fruits and anacardiaceae stems.[49]

Insect prey eaten includes beetle larvae, butterfly and moth caterpillars, ants, wasps, and ant and wasp larvae.[7] It also eats larger prey, such as birds, bird eggs, frogs, lizards, crabs, mollusks and small mammals.[7][50] The population in Guanacaste, Costa Rica in particular is noted for hunting squirrels, magpies, white-crowned parrots[7] and baby coatis.[51] The amount of vertebrate prey eaten varies by troop.[7] Even neighboring troops can show significant differences in their diets.[46]

The diet can vary between the rainy and dry season. For example, in Guanacaste, Costa Rica the white-headed capuchin can eat a wide variety of fruits as well as caterpillars in the early rainy season (June to November).[47] But during the dry season, only figs and a few other types of fruit are available.[47] During the dry season, chitinous insects, ant and wasp larvae and vertebrates become a particularly important part of the white-headed capuchin's diet.[47] Access to water can also become an issue during the dry season. The white-headed capuchin likes to drink daily, so in forests where water holes dry up during the dry season, there can be competition between troops over access to the remaining water holes.[47]

Tool use[edit]

Capuchins are considered among the most intelligent of the New World monkeys; they have been the subject of many studies on behaviour and intelligence. The capuchins' intelligence is thought to be an adaptation to support their feeding habits; they rely on ephemeral food sources which may be hard to find. In one particular study conducted in 2007, capuchins were found to be among the ten most intelligent primates, second to spider monkeys among New World monkeys.[52]

The white-headed capuchin is known to rub parts of certain plants into their hair. Plants used in this manner include citrus fruits, vines of the genera Piper and Clematis, monkey comb (genus Sloanea), dumb cane and custard apple.[7][50] Ants and millipedes are also used in this way.[7] It is not definitively known what this rubbing is for, but this may deter parasites such as ticks and insects, or it may serve as a fungicide or bactericide or anti-inflammatory agent.[7] Alternatively, it may be a form of scent marking.[7]

The white-headed capuchin also uses tools in other ways. It has been known to beat snakes with sticks in order to protect itself or to get the snake to release an infant.[7] In captivity, it has been known to use tools to get to food or to defend itself, and in one case a white-headed capuchin used a squirrel monkey as a projectile, hurling it at a human observer.[7] It has been historically noted that the species is often able to recognize, and therefore avoid baited cage traps, and hidden net snares are often the only way to capture this monkey.[citation needed] Some populations also use trees or other hard surfaces as anvils in order to crack mollusks.[50] And it sometimes uses sticks as probes to explore openings.[53]

Though the white-headed capuchin has perhaps the most extensive and most frequent tool use in comparison to the other gracile capuchins, its tool use is considerably inferior to that of robust capuchins, especially the tufted capuchin.[citation needed] Factors such as easier access to water and food may have to do with the white-headed capuchin's less extensive use of tools.[citation needed]

The white-headed capuchin's intelligence and ability to use tools allows them to be trained to assist paraplegics.[54] Other species of capuchin monkeys are also trained in this manner.[55] White-headed capuchins can also be trained for roles on television and movies, such as Marcel on the television series Friends.[56] They were also traditionally used as organ grinder monkeys.[57]

Communication[edit]

Facial expression

The white-headed capuchin is noisy.[8] Loud calls, such as barks and coughs, are used to communicate threat warnings, and softer calls, such as squeals, are used in intimate discourse.[7] Different types of threats, such as a threat from a terrestrial animal versus a threat from a bird, invoke different vocalizations.[38] Facial expressions and scent are also important to communication.[58] It sometimes engages in a practice known as "urine washing", in which the monkey rubs urine on its feet.[59] The exact purpose of this practice is unknown, but it may be a form of olfactory signal.[58]

Reproduction[edit]

The white-headed capuchin uses a polygamous mating system in which a male may mate with multiple females.[38] Although the dominant male does not monopolize breeding, studies have shown that the dominant male does tend to father most of the young.[33] Although a female may mate with several males, the dominant male may be more likely to copulate when the female is at peak fertility.[33][60] Nonetheless, there is evidence that dominant males do tend to avoid breeding with their own daughters who are members of the troop.[61] Such avoidance is rare among New World primates.[61]

Copulation takes about 2 minutes, and the gestation period is 5 to 6 months.[38] Usually a single young is born, but twins occur occasionally. Most births occur during the dry season from December to April.[11][38] The infant is carried across its mother's back for about 6 weeks.[38] After about 4 to 5 weeks it can stray from its mother for brief periods and by about 3 months it can move around independently, although some infants will be mostly independent earlier. Weaning occurs between 6 and 12 months. While the mother rests, the young spends most of its time foraging or playing, either on its own or with other juveniles.[38] Capuchins engage in high levels of alloparenting, in which monkeys other than the mother help care for the infant.[62] Infants are carried by alloparents most often between 4 and 6 weeks in age.[19] Males as well as females engage in alloparenting.[19][38]

Like other capuchin species, the white-headed capuchin matures slowly. Sexual maturity can be reached at 3 years.[57] But on average, females give birth for the first time at 7 years old and give birth every 26 months thereafter.[13] Males attain reproductive maturity at 10 years old.[13] The white-headed capuchin has a long life span given its size. The maximum recorded life span in captivity is over 54 years.[13]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

White-headed capuchin at Frío River, Costa Rica

The white-headed capuchin is found in much of Central America and a small portion of South America. In Central America, its range includes much of Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama.[3] It has also been reported to occur in eastern Guatemala and southern Belize, but these reports are unconfirmed.[3] In South America the white-headed capuchin is found in the extreme north-western strip between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes Mountains in Colombia and northwestern Ecuador.[3] It is among the most commonly seen monkeys in Central America's national parks, such as Manuel Antonio National Park, Corcovado National Park, Santa Rosa National Park and Soberania National Park.[63]

It should also be noted that while it is very common in Costa Rica and Panama, the monkey has been largely extirpated from Honduras and much of Nicaragua. Many Honduran capuchins were captured and relocated to the island of Roatán, and many Nicaraguan capuchins were captured and relocated to the island of Ometepe. In Nicaragua, wild capuchins may still be easily spotted in regions around Masaya, as well as around Bluefields and other locations around the South Caribbean coast. The monkey can also be observed near the Costa Rican border along the San Juan River, and in Kahka Creek Rainforest Preserve.[citation needed]

It is found in many different types of forest, including mature and secondary forests, and including evergreen and deciduous forests, dry and moist forests, and mangrove and montane forests.[8][57] However, it appears to prefer primary or advanced secondary forests.[38] Also, higher densities of white-headed capuchins are found in older areas of forest and in areas containing evergreen forest, as well as areas with more water availability during the dry season.[64]

Conservation status[edit]

The white-headed capuchin is regarded as "least concern" from a conservation standpoint by IUCN. However, its numbers are affected by the fact that it is sometimes captured for the pet trade.[7] Its status can also be harmed by deforestation. However, deforestation may also impact its main predator, the harpy eagle, more than it directly impacts the white-headed capuchin, and so on a net basis deforestation may not be as harmful to the capuchin's status.[7] The white-headed capuchin can adapt to forest fragmentation better than other species due to its ability to live in a wide variety of forest types and exploit a wide variety of food sources.[65] The white-headed capuchin is important to its ecosystems as a seed and pollen disperser.[7][57] It also impacts the ecosystem by eating insects that act as pests to certain trees, by pruning certain trees, such as Gustavia superba and Bursera simaruba, causing them generate more branches and possibly additional fruit, and by accelerating germination of certain seeds when they pass through the capuchin's digestive tract.[7] In addition, the white-headed capuchin sometimes kills Acacia collinsii plants when it rips through the plant's branches to get to resident ant colonies.[7]

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