Are Squirrel Monkeys Endangered? - Adaptations & Predators

Instructor: Lauren Posey

Lauren has taught intermediate reading in an English Language Institute, and she has her Master's degree in Linguistics.

In this lesson you'll learn about the endangered species status of squirrel monkeys. We will also look at some adaptations squirrel monkeys have, as well as their natural predators.

Are Squirrel Monkeys Endangered?

What does it mean to say a species is endangered, or in danger of becoming extinct? In reality, it means that organizations such as the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources) have determined that a species is in danger of extinction. The criteria to determine this can vary by species, and it includes different aspects of life, ranging from number left in the wild to reproductive rates to rate of population decline.

Knowing the criteria, then, are squirrel monkeys endangered? As a group, they are not. Squirrel monkeys are members of the genus Saimiri, and there are five different species, all of which live in Central and South America. Of these, only one species (the Central American squirrel monkey, S. oerstedii) is actually listed as 'endangered.' Habitat loss is a major reason for the 'endangered' status of this species. They are also captured and sold into the pet trade.

One other species (the Black squirrel monkey, S. vanzolinii) is listed as 'vulnerable,' which is one step below endangered. However, all three of the other species are listed as 'least concern,' which is the lowest level of endangered species classification. These species are the common squirrel monkey (S. sciureus), the black-capped squirrel monkey (S. boliviensis), and the bare-eared squirrel monkey (S. ustus).

Central American squirrel monkeys are the only endangered species of squirrel monkey
Central American Squirrel Monkey


So, why are only two of the five squirrel monkey species listed as vulnerable or endangered? One reason is that squirrel monkeys have a number of adaptations or behaviors and characteristics that make them better suited to live in their environment.

One of these adaptations is that squirrel monkeys can live in a variety of habitat types. They are not particularly sensitive to forest type, and can live in disturbed forest that has had human activity just as well as they can live in a true wilderness. They can also live on the edges of forests, as well as the center. Being flexible like this makes it much easier for them to survive when their habitat is disturbed, or if it is destroyed and they are forced to flee.

In addition, squirrel monkeys have a variable diet. They can eat fruits and insects with equal ease, and they vary what they eat depending on what season it is, or what happens to be nearby. This way, if they experience drought or climate change they will not starve. Squirrel monkeys are able to adapt and eat whatever is available. Squirrel monkeys have also adapted to give birth during the rainy season when more food is available.

Squirrel monkeys have a variable diet
Squirrel monkey eating


Squirrel monkeys also have adaptations to protect them from predators. First, they always travel in groups. This lowers the likelihood that any one monkey will get eaten by a predator, and it increases the chance that a monkey will see the predator before any other monkey is eaten. When they do spot a predator, squirrel monkeys give off warning calls to let the rest of the group know

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