The variegated spider monkey has a complex social system, living in multi-male, multi-female “fission-fusion communities” of 3 to 22 individuals. These groups break up into smaller subgroups to forage, and have a home range of around 260 to 390 hectares. A wide variety of calls are used, including ‘ts chookis’, whoops and wails to locate other subgroups. When two subgroups reunite there is an excited greeting display, which involves vocalizing, chasing, hugging with tails entwined, and sniffing of the sternal glands. This diurnal species is active during the day, foraging primarily for ripe fruit, although also supplementing the diet with decaying wood, leaves and flowers. If potential predators are sighted, individuals shake branches at them to scare them off (2).
The variegated spider monkey gives birth to single young, after a gestation of 225 days (2). Baby spider monkeys tend to cling to their mother’s belly for around the first four months of life, after which they climb to her back, eventually developing enough independence to travel on their own (3). Like other spider monkeys, this species is characterised by a slow reproductive rate, with females typically giving birth to single offspring only once every three to four years (4).