Capuchin monkey Cebus



Suborder: Haplorrhini

Infraorder: Simiiformes

Family: Cebidae

Subfamily: Cebinae

Genus: Cebus

Species: Cebus albifrons (white-fronted capuchin)

Cebus apella (tufted capuchin)

Cebus capucinus (white-faced capuchin)

Cebus kaapori (Kaapori capuchin)

Cebus libidinosus (black-striped capuchin)

Cebus nigritus (black capuchin)

Cebus olivaceus (wedge-capped capuchin)

Cebus queirozi (blond capuchin)

Cebus xanthosternos (golden-bellied capuchin)


Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Venezuela


Cebus apella inhabits moist subtropical or tropical forests, but has also been seen in dry forest, gallery forest, disturbed and secondary forest. In northwest Argentina these monkeys live in montane forest at an elevation of 200 to 1100m.

This species prefers the understory and midcanopy of the forest, but often descends from the trees to forage and play. Cebus apella has the widest range and broadest habitat tolerances of any other Cebus species.

Physical Description

Brown capuchin monkeys vary in color from light brown to mustard yellow to black. The shoulders and underbelly are lighter than the rest of the body. There is a patch of coarse black fur on the crown of the head, sometimes referred to as a cap. Above the ears the black hairs form tufts of fur giving the species one of its common names, tufted capuchin monkey.

Facial patterns are variable among individuals, but black sideburns extending from the cap are characteristic of Cebus apella. The hands, feet, and tail are either black or dark brown.The tail is long and prehensile. Cebus apella is the only species of capuchin monkey known to carry its tail in a tight coil.

This species is robust and stocky. Brown capuchin monkeys have a deep lower jaw and large jaw muscles to accomodate a diet of large fruits and rough vegetation. Males are 34% larger in body size and have canines 22% larger than those of females.


Extreme lifespan (captivity) 45 years (high)

Average lifespan (captivity) 46 years

Typical longevity in the wild is unknown, but captive C. apella may live to 45 years old.


Cebus apella is diurnal and arboreal. Most traveling is done quadrupedally by leaping and climbing. Brown capuchin monkeys are social animals forming groups of 8 to 15 animals. Juvenile males leave the group at sexual maturity and seek out new groups in which to mate. The core members of a group are, therefore, the females who typically spend their entire lives in the same group.

The group is lead by a dominant male, who is most active in protecting the group from predators and other groups of monkeys. If another group comes into his home range, the dominant male leads the attack to drive the other group away. However, C. apella is less aggressive towards other troops than other Cebus species.

Home ranges may overlap by 40% and different troops have been observed feeding near each other without antagonism. The dominant male has the first choice in mating and food sources. When food is scarce and a new source is found, the dominant male always eats first. Other members of the group tolerated by the dominant male are allowed to eat with him, but subordinate members must wait until the priority group is finished.

This priority group often consists of juveniles, infants and a few favorite females. While dominant males are usually tolerant of their own offspring, juveniles from previous dominant males are treated with great hostility. Most aggression taking place within the group stems from competition for food.

Social grooming is common throughout the group.

Playing is common among juveniles in the wild and in captivity. Brown capuchins are the only neotropical primate that play with objects that are placed in their enclosures. Cebus apella individuals are intelligent and curious animals.

Home Range

Home ranges are normally 25 ha to 40 ha, but can be up to 355 ha with a day range of 2000m.

Communication and Perception

These monkeys scent mark themselves by washing their hands in their own urine and rubbing their hands on their fur. This may be a way for males to advertise their sexual maturity.

Female brown capuchin monkeys in estrus try to attract the attention of the dominant male by following him and making loud calls. A wide variety of vocalizations is known from Cebus species. These were divided into 4 categories in C. olivaceus: contacting the group, contacting individuals, ending aggressive encounters, alerting the group to the presence of danger.

Gestures and facial expressions are also widely used in communication and social grooming is an important form of contact.

Food Habits

Fruits are a large part of brown capuchin monkey's diet. This species can eat larger fruits than other species of capuchin monkey because of their robust jaws. Vegetation, seeds, pith, eggs, insects, reptiles, birds, and small mammals (such as mouse opossums) are also included in their diet. During the dry season, when food is scarce, Scheelea palm frond pith is critical to this animal's survival.

Foraging is a noisy and destructive activity. Brown capuchin monkeys move from tree to tree, ripping apart vegetation and cracking open nuts against branches. They look for vertebrate and invertebrate prey by destroying dead vegetation and capturing anything inside. Individuals who catch prey do not usually share with other group members.

Primary Diet: omnivore

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

Plant Foods: leaves; roots and tubers; wood, bark, or stems; seeds, grains, and nuts; fruit; flowers.


Known predators hawks and eagles

The dominant male protects his troop from predators by sounding alarm calls. This draws attention to himself so that his troop can escape. Capuchin monkeys are very wary of predators.

Members of a troop give sharp whistling calls at the sight of hawks and eagles, two of the most significant predators of this species. The troop is so wary of hawks and eagles that it sounds alarm whistles even if the bird flying overhead is harmless.

Ecosystem Roles

Brown capuchin monkeys are important predators on small animals and may disperse the seeds of some forest plants when they eat the fruit.

Cebus apella can be found in mixed species groups. They are most often found in association with squirrel monkeys. Usually the squirrel monkeys initiate the mixed group interaction, probably in order to find food more efficiently. Squirrel monkeys follow brown capuchin monkeys to new food sources, which saves them foraging time. The association does not seem to benefit capuchin monkeys.

Key ways these animals impact their ecosystem: disperses seeds.

IUCN Red List: Least Concern.

US Federal List: No special status.


Because of its high reproductive potential and its habitat flexibility, hunting and habitat destruction have not devastated populations as severely as they have other species of primates. However, certain subspecies may be threatened, including C. a. xanthosternos and C. a. robustus from the Atlantic forests of eastern Brazil.

Cebus apella is the most commonly seen monkey in Amazonia.