Capuchins prefer environments that give them access to shelter and easy food, such as low-lying forests, mountain forests, and rain forests. They are particularly abundant in Argentina, Brazil, Costa Rica, Honduras, Paraguay, and Peru. They use these areas for shelter at night and food access during the day. The canopy of the trees allows for protection from threats above, and the Capuchin Monkeys’ innate ability to climb trees with ease allows them to escape and hide from predators on the jungle floor. This environment is mutually beneficial for the Capuchins and for the ecosystem in which they inhabit. This is because they spread their seed leftovers and fecal matter across the forest floor which helps new plants to grow, therefore adding to the already abundant foliage that shelters the Capuchin.
Capuchin females often direct most of their proceptive and mating behavior towards the alpha male. However, when the female reaches the end of her proceptive period, she may sometimes mate with up to six different subordinate males in one day. Strictly targeting the alpha male does not happen every time, as some females have been observed to mate with three to four different males. When an alpha female and a lower-ranking female want to mate with an alpha male, the more dominant female will get rights to the male over the lower-ranking one.
Ancestors of the Capuchin monkey, known as Panamacebus Transitus, is a newly discovered species of monkey found in Panama that seems to have lived 21 million years ago. It is the earliest known discovery of monkeys to travel between South and North America, although it is still unknown as to how this species traveled from the continent. Researcher Lynch Alfaro stated that the gracile Capuchin Monkey genera arose about 6.2 million years ago, and the modern Capuchin culture emerged within the last century. It is this early species that set the stage for the Capuchin to thrive in Central American forests today. The Capuchin has been known to roam these forests for years and their population has boomed, the area in which they inhabit allows for the Capuchin offspring to thrive. the reproduction of these particular monkeys does not differ much from its fellow primates. Capuchins are polygamous, and the females mate throughout the year, but only go through a gestation period once every 2 years between December and April. Females bear young every two years following a 160- to 180-day gestation. The young cling to their mother’s chest until they are larger, then they move to her back. Adult male Capuchin rarely takes part in caring for the young. Juveniles become fully mature within four years for females and eight years for males. In captivity, individuals have reached an age of 50 years, although natural life expectancy is only 15 to 25 years. Capuchins live in groups of 6-40 members, consisting of related females, their offspring, and several males.
Capuchin monkeys are clever and easy to train. As a result, they are used to help people who are quadriplegics in many developed countries. They have also become popular pets and attractions for street entertainment, and are hunted for meat by local people. Since they have a high reproductive rate and can easily adapt to their living environment, loss of the forest does not negatively impact the Capuchin monkey populations as much as other species, although habitat fragmentation is still a threat. Natural predators include jaguars, cougars, jaguarundis, coyotes, tayras, snakes, crocodiles and birds of prey. The main predator of the tufted capuchin is the harpy eagle, which has been seen bringing several Capuchin back to its nest.
Crested capuchin (Sapajus robustus)
The capuchin is considered to be the most intelligent New World monkey and is often used in laboratories. The tufted monkey is especially noted for its long-term tool usage, one of the few examples of primate tool use other than by apes and humans. Upon seeing macaws eating palm nuts, cracking them open with their beaks, this monkey will select a few of the ripest fruits, nip off the tip of the fruit and drink down the juice, then seemingly discard the rest of the fruit with the nut inside. When these discarded fruits have hardened and become slightly brittle, the Capuchin will gather them up again and take them to a large flat boulder where they have previously gathered a few river stones from up to a mile away. They will then use these stones, some of them weighing as much as the monkeys, to crack open the fruit to get to the nut inside. Young Capuchins will watch this process to learn from the older, more experienced adults but it takes them 8 years to master this. The learning behavior of Capuchins has been demonstrated to be directly linked to a reward rather than curiosity.
In 2005, experiments were conducted on the ability of Capuchins to use money. After several months of training, the monkeys began exhibiting behaviors considered to reflect an understanding of the concept of a medium of exchange that were previously believed to be restricted to humans (such as responding rationally to price shocks). They showed the same propensity to avoid perceived losses demonstrated by human subjects and investors. During the mosquito season, they crush millipedes and rub the result on their backs. This acts as a natural insect repellent.
Further information: Self-awareness
When presented with a reflection, Capuchin monkeys react in a way that indicates an intermediate state between seeing the mirror as another individual and recognizing the image as self. Most animals react to seeing their reflections as if encountering another individual they do not recognize. An experiment with Capuchins shows that they react to a reflection as a strange phenomenon, but not as if seeing a strange Capuchin.
Theory of mind
Main article: Theory of mind
The question of whether capuchin monkeys have a theory of mind—whether they can understand what another creature may know or think—has been neither proven nor disproven conclusively. If confronted with a knower-guesser scenario, where one trainer can be observed to know the location of food and another trainer merely guesses the location of food, capuchin monkeys can learn to rely on the knower. This has, however, been repudiated as conclusive evidence for a theory of mind as the monkeys may have learned to discriminate knower and guess by other means. Until recently it was believed that non-human great apes did not possess a theory of mind either, although recent research indicates this may not be correct. Human children commonly develop a theory of mind around the ages 3 and 4.
Relationship with humans
19th-century organ grinder and his capuchin monkey
Easily recognized as the “organ grinder” or “greyhound jockey” monkeys, capuchins are sometimes kept as exotic pets. Sometimes they plunder fields and crops and are seen as troublesome by nearby human populations. In some regions, they have become rare due to the destruction of their habitat.
They are also used as service animals, sometimes being called “nature’s butlers”. One organization has been training capuchin monkeys to assist quadriplegics as monkey helpers in a manner similar to mobility assistance dogs. After being socialized in a human home as infants, the monkeys undergo extensive training before being placed with a quadriplegic. Around the house, the monkeys help out by doing tasks including fetching objects, turning lights on and off, and opening drink bottles.
In 2010, the U.S. federal government revised its definition of service animal under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Non-human primates are no longer recognized as service animals under the ADA. The American Veterinary Medical Association does not support the use of nonhuman primates as assistance animals because of animal welfare concerns, the potential for serious injury to people, and risks that primates may transfer dangerous diseases to humans.
Capuchin monkeys are the most common featured monkeys in the movies and its sequels,Outbreak, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (and its sequels), Zookeeper, George of the Jungle, and The Hangover Part II. Ross Geller (David Schwimmer) on the NBC sitcom Friends had a capuchin monkey named Marcel. Crystal the Monkey is a famous monkey actress.