Geoffroy's Spider Monkey

By Rani Iyer

Scientific Name: Ateles geoffroyi

If you are ready to shake hands with the spider monkey, you will notice some remarkable things about the hand. You will be shaking a long, black-hand, with a vestigial, or poorly developed, thumb and strong hook-like fingers.

You can find spider monkeys, in the rainforests from Mexico to Central America. There are five subspecies of Geoffroy’s spider monkey. Nicaragua, Hooded spider monkey, Ornate spider monkey, Mexican, and Yucatan subspecies of spider monkeys. But their needs are the same.

The chances are that you find them in a large ‘society’ with 20 or more monkeys. Even in these forests, they are pretty rare. Spider monkeys weigh about 9 kg (20 lb). They love ripe and fleshy fruits. They search for the fruits high up in the canopy. They also eat tender leaf sprouts, which are rich in protein. Seeds, honey, insects, bark, and flowers are also important food they love.

Geoffroy's Spider Monkey. Photo by Rhett A. Butler
To get so many different kinds of food, spider monkeys travel a lot. Spider monkey groups require about 2,200 acres (900 hectares) to find enough food. Imagine their fate when large trees are cut down in forests.

The survival of spider monkey and trees are intertwined. The spider monkey is almost entirely arboreal. This means, they live on canopy trees. They walk and run on their four limbs on the trees. Their tail is prehensile, which curls up and supports while swinging.

Spider monkeys sometimes come to the ground. But, they also cross between trees by ‘bridging.’ To move from one tree to another, the spider monkey grabs a branch from the new tree and pulls it closer. Then, it climbs on to it and moves on. They can also leap between trees.

The spider monkeys have high intelligence. They are ahead of gorillas and right behind orangutans and chimpanzees. Yet, they can’t live without their habitat, the forests and trees. If we save the forests and trees, we are saving several undiscovered species. Let us do our best!

Teacher Resources - here are some ideas to incorporate spider monkeys in lessons:

Use Folktales to introduce spider monkey in the class

Reading comprehension on spider monkey

Endangered Primate Lesson plans

Asking structured questions in a lesson plan on Food Web to introduce spider monkey

Spider monkey introduced in survival lesson plans (high school)


  • May I use graphics from for my projects? Yes, you may provided that you don't remove the mongabay label from the images. You may use information from the site for class projects and can cite mongabay as the source.
  • Is this web site credible? Mongabay is the world's most popular source for information on tropical forests. The site is highly acclaimed by a number of the world's leading tropical scientists. Mongabay Founder Rhett Butler has published several scientific papers.
  • Can I interview the founder of mongabay for my school project? Unfortunately Rhett is not available for interviews. However he has answered some common questions on the Rainforest Interview page.
  • Do you have any games or activities? Currently there are a few on the resources page.
  • How can I help save rainforests? Some ideas are listed at Rainforest Solutions.
  • Where can I learn more about rainforests? Check the main rainforest site.