Spider monkeys (of several species) live in the tropical rain forests of Central and South America and occur as far north as Mexico. They have long, lanky arms and prehensile (gripping) tails that enable them to move gracefully from branch to branch and tree to tree. These nimble monkeys spend most of their time aloft, and maintain a powerful grip on branches even though they have no thumbs.
These New World primates are social and gather in groups of up to two- or three-dozen animals. At night, these groups split up into smaller sleeping parties of a half dozen or fewer. Foraging also occurs in smaller groups, and is usually most intense early in the day. Spider monkeys find food in the treetops and feast on nuts, fruits, leaves, bird eggs, and spiders. They can be noisy animals and often communicate with many calls, screeches, barks, and other sounds.
Typically, females give birth to only a single baby every two to five years. Young monkeys depend completely on their mothers for about ten weeks, but after that time they begin to explore on their own and play amongst themselves. Mothers continue to care for their young for the first year of their lives, and often move about with their offspring clinging to their backs.
Indigenous peoples often hunt spider monkeys for food, and the animals are usually agitated by human contact. Logging and deforestation continue to shrink the space that spider monkeys are able to call home.