SCIENCE IN PICS: The Common Squirrel Monkey

April 28, 2012 Updated: October 1, 2015
Squirrel Monkeys spend most of their time in the trees
Squirrel Monkeys spend most of their time in the trees. (Luc Viatour/

The Saimiri sciureus squirrel monkey species is commonly seen throughout South and Central American rainforests, despite the animals’ shy and skittish nature.

Squirrel monkeys have white masks of fur around their eyes, and dark coloration around the mouth and chin. The species is distinguished by the shape of the white fur arch above the monkeys’ eyes.

Squirrel monkey species are identified by their “gothic arches”—where the animals’ white fur reaches a high peak, and the darker fur on their heads forms a deep V-shape between their eyes.

Squirrel monkeys are arboreal (tree-dwelling) and active during the day, spending most of their time in the mid-level of forests, rarely descending to the ground except to forage or play.

They move around in larger groups than other monkeys. Squirrel monkeys are excellent climbers and leapers, moving silently from tree to tree in search of fruit, flowers, and insects.

Their small size makes them susceptible to predators, such as snakes and felids. Raptors have been observed as being responsible for the most predations.