What Do Spider Monkeys Eat?

Spider monkey mother and baby
© StanBullett/Shutterstock.com

Written by Kristen Holder

Published: March 1, 2022

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Spider monkeys are found in parts of Mexico, the Amazon rainforest, and Central America. Since they are found in jungles on the American continents, they are New World monkeys. They live in the middle layer of the forest between the ground and the canopy, and they tend to stick close to rivers and streams.

Spider monkeys effortlessly move between trees and fascinate people whether in zoos or on nature documentaries. All the attention on spider monkeys brings up a question, just what do these incredible primates eat to survive? Below, we’ll go into depth on what spider monkeys eat and provide some unforgettable fun facts on these amazing monkeys!

10 Foods Spider Monkeys Eat

What Do Spider Monkeys Eat (1)
Spider monkeys are omnivores but mostly eat plant matter.

Spider monkeys eat leaves, fruits, and nuts. They are omnivorous meaning they eat both plants and animals. They forage for these food sources. Spider monkeys are also considered a frugivore because their diet consists mostly of fruits, shoots, nuts, and seeds. Their favorites are fleshy fruits with leaves coming in second. Their diet is in line with what most monkeys would eat if they were in the spider monkey’s territory.

A Complete List of 10 Foods that Spider Monkeys Eat

  • Fruit
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Leaves
  • Flowers
  • Palms
  • Shoots
  • Insects
  • Spiders
  • Eggs

A New World monkey is smaller and has a flatter nose than its Old World counterparts. New World and Old World monkeys are quite different from each other as their common ancestor was alive about 45 million years ago. While New World monkeys tend to be small, the spider monkey is one of the largest among them. It is also considered the smartest!

Do Spider Monkeys Eat Spiders?

Yes, spider monkeys eat spiders. They also eat insects, but half of their diet is fruit and nuts. They eat spiders and insects as a matter of convenience while they forage after fleshy fruit.

They are called spider monkeys because of the placement of their brown, white and black fur. They have long limbs and framed black eyes which makes them an abstraction of a spider to observers. When they hang from a tree by their tail, their long limbs and dark fur also makes them look like a spider.

Spider monkey hanging

Spider Monkeys look like spiders when they hang by their tails.

©Patrick Mueller / Creative Commons – Original

How Do Spider Monkeys Find Their Food?

Spider monkeys start looking for food early in the morning and sleep in trees at night. If they can’t find food at their memorized food sources, they’ll split up into small groups and go foraging. Usually, they hang out in a large troop of up to 100 individuals, but they break off in groups of about 5 when it’s time to hunt down a meal. Most of their day is occupied by eating.

Their foraging consists of carefully combing trees for their snacks. They have a prehensile tail, which means they can hang from tree limbs and grasp things with their tail. This tail is longer than their body length and is a dominant feature of theirs. They climb around through the trees eating things as the opportunity arises.

They have long fingers which help them reach for small things like spiders or berries. They do not have a thumb, but this lack of dexterity is made up for by their tails which they’re able to use as an extra limb. Their fingers are also hook-like which aids them when they move around the trees looking for food.  

What Eats Spider Monkeys?

Yes, spider monkeys have predators. A spider monkey’s predators are snakes, jaguars, pumas, and sometimes eagles. Since spider monkeys are about the size of a small dog, larger birds of prey can snatch them up.

The spider monkey’s main advantage over predators is its ability to climb, though some predators do climb up trees after them. If they’re on the ground, they’re extremely vulnerable to attack.

When a spider monkey feels threatened, it puts on quite the display. It will aggressively shake branches while screeching. If this doesn’t work, the troop of monkeys will split up to try and confuse the predator. Usually, the fuss that an angry monkey makes is enough to dissuade whatever is posing the threat.

Because they’re so smart, they’re able to remember where they found fruit or other foods in the past. This helps them plan safe routes to avoid predators.

Unfortunately, human beings are the biggest threat to spider monkey populations. Deforestation has demolished huge swaths of their natural habitat which has decimated their numbers. Things like development and palm oil farms are turning their diverse habitat into a monoculture of trees that cannot sustain their populations. They need a wide variety of plants to maintain a healthy diet.

Spider monkeys walking in grass

Spider monkeys are most vulnerable when they’re on the ground.

©Nick Fox/Shutterstock.com

How Many Types of Spider Monkeys Are There?

There are 7 types of spider monkeys still in existence. They are:

  • Red-faced Spider Monkeys
  • White-Fronted Spider Monkeys
  • Peruvian Spider Monkeys
  • Brown Spider Monkeys
  • White-Cheeked Spider Monkeys
  • Brown-Headed Spider Monkeys
  • Geoffroy’s Spider Monkeys

Most of these spider monkeys are endangered due to overhunting and human development. The brown spider monkey is critically endangered while the red-faced spider monkey is the least endangered, though it is still vulnerable. Scientists are starting to put conservation measures into place to stop their numbers from dwindling.

Do Spider Monkeys Get Drunk?

Yes, spider monkeys get drunk when they eat overripe fruit. They’re not at risk of hurting themselves, however, since they stop eating the drunken fruit when they’re full. The alcohol content of rotten fruit is also much lower than the processed alcoholic beverages that adult humans drink. Yet, when fruit ferments, it creates alcohol which is just as intoxicating to animals as it is to humans.

Do Spider Monkeys Eat Bananas?

Yes, a spider monkey eats bananas, but it’s almost always in captivity. Bananas are not a natural food source that’s available in their environment. In fact, the banana that can be purchased from the grocery store can’t be found in the wild at all. It is the product of years of crossbreeding for agricultural purposes.

The only time a wild spider monkey will eat bananas is if they happen to live near a banana farm. This proximity to a banana grow is plausible because they live in the subtropics and tropics which is the same place that people farm bananas.

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About the Author

Kristen Holder is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering topics related to history, travel, pets, and obscure scientific issues. Kristen has been writing professionally for 3 years, and she holds a Bachelor's Degree from the University of California, Riverside, which she obtained in 2009. After living in California, Washington, and Arizona, she is now a permanent resident of Iowa. Kristen loves to dote on her 3 cats, and she spends her free time coming up with adventures that allow her to explore her new home.

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