White-throated Capuchin (Cebus capucinus)

This species has relatively long limbs compared to trunk size. The white-throated capuchin has a prehensile tail. This species is sexually dimorphic. Fingers on this species are short and the thumb is opposable (Fleagle, 1988). The premolars of the white-throated capuchin are large, and the molars are square shaped with a thick enamel to help with cracking nuts (Fleagle, 1988). The average body mass for the male white-throated capuchin is 3.7 kilograms, and for the female it is 2.5 kilograms (Fleagle, 1988).

The white-throated capuchin is found in the countries of Colombia, Costa Rica, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Panama. The white-throated capuchin lives in a variety of forest habitats, including open and closed canopy, wet and dry primary, and secondary forests; this species is also found in lowland and montane habitats. This species is also found in young successional forest (Fedigan, 1990).

The white-throated capuchin is omnivorous, relying on fruits and insects. Fruit constitutes 78% of the diet (Chapman, 1987). This diurnal species also eats lizards, bird eggs, adult parrots and magpie jays, squirrels, bats, and nestling coatis (Fedigan, 1990). The white-throated capuchin is primarily arboreal. The groups range in size from 2 to 30 individuals.

The white-throated capuchin moves through the forest canopy quadrupedally and they use their prehensile tail during feeding (Fleagle, 1988). This species also occasionally leaps and climbs (Gebo, 1989).

The white-throated capuchin has polygamous mating system, although sometimes a subordinate male may copulate with a female (Kinzey, 1997). The social system found in this species is multimale-multifemale (Kinzey, 1997). This species has a matrilineal dominance hierarchy (Kinzey, 1997). The females of this species are philopatric and the males disperse (Kinzey, 1997). Social grooming is an important method of maintaining social bonds within the group. Other members of the group assist in caring for the infants, including the males.

sex squeak: This vocalization consists of a series of staccato notes, which are soft, that are rising in pitch (Manson et al., 1997). This display occurs with protruded lips and is part of courtship (Manson et al., 1997).


protruded lips: This is when an individual protrudes the lips so that they resemble a duck’s bill (Oppenheimer, 1973). This display is used by the white-throated capuchins during courtship, by both the males and females (Manson et al., 1997). The individual stares at the other and sometimes makes sex squeak (Manson et al., 1997).

staring open-mouth face: This is where the eyes are opened wide, the mouth is open with the teeth covered by the lips, and the eyebrows are lowered (Jolly, 1972). This occurs when mobbing a predator or serves to communicate an inhibited threat (Jolly, 1972).

staring bared-teeth scream face: This is where the eye are opened wide, the mouth is open with the corners drawn back so that the teeth and gums are revealed (Jolly, 1972). This display occurs with terror flight (Jolly, 1972).

silent bared-teeth face: This is where the eyes are staring at the stimulus, the eye brows are either relaxed or up, and the corners of the mouth are drawn back allowing the teeth to show (Jolly, 1972). This is used to communicate submission or a friendly approach (Jolly, 1972).

bared-teeth gecker face: This is like silent bared-teeth face only with a rapid noise attached to it (Jolly, 1972). This display occurs with defensive threat calls and during infant squeaks (Jolly, 1972).

lip-smacking face: This is where the eyes are opened wide, and the tongue is moving in and out of the mouth while the jaw is making sucking movements (Jolly, 1972). This is used as a greeting, during sex, and during grooming (Jolly, 1972).

tense-mouth face: This is where the eyes are opened wide, the mouth is narrowed to a slit, and the eyebrows are lowered (Jolly, 1972). This is used to communicate a confident threat or an attack (Jolly, 1972).

social grooming: This is where one individual grooms another and is used to reinforce social bonds.

hip grasp: This is done by the males to the females, where the male grasps gently on the hips of the female from behind (Manson et al., 1997). The male does this during courtship to see if the female is ready to be mounted, if she is not, she will scream (Manson et al., 1997).

The white-throated capuchin gives birth to a single offspring. This species engages in ventrodorsal copulation (Manson et al., 1997). This species engages in same-sex sexual behavior and adult-immature sexual behavior, which is comparable to the sexual behavior found in Pan paniscus (Manson et al., 1997). Male-male sexual behavior occurs more frequently after fights and during coalition formation attempts (Manson et al., 1997). This sexual behavior between males might also be related to that males disperse and when entering new groups there is often tension, and sex may be used as a communication tool to alleviate tension (Manson et al., 1997).

Burton, Frances. 1995. The Multimedia Guide to the Non-human Primates. Prentice-Hall Canada Inc.

Chapman, C.A. 1987. Flexibility in Diets of Three Species of Costa Rican Primates. Folia Primatologica Vol. 49, 90-105.

Fedigan, L.M. 1990. Vertebrate Predation in Cebus capucinus: Meat Eating in a Neotropical Monkey. Folia Primatologica Vol. 54, 196-205.

Fleagle, John G. 1988. Primate Adaptation and Evolution. Academic Press.

Jolly, A. 1972. The Evolution of Primate Behavior. Macmillan Publishing Co., N.Y.

Kinzey, W.G. 1997. Cebus. in New World Primates: Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior. ed. Warren G. Kinzey, Aldine de Gruyter, New York.

Manson, J.H., Perry, S., and Parish, A.R. 1997. Nonconceptive Sexual Behavior in Bonobos and Capuchins. International Journal of Primatology Vol. 18, 767-786.

Oppenheimer, J.G. 1973. Social and Communicatory Behavior in the Cebus Monkey. In Behavioral Regulators of Behavior in Primates, ed. C.R. Carpenter, Associated University Presses.

Last Updated: October 6, 2003.
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