Cebus nigritusblack capuchin

Geographic Range

Cebus nigritus, otherwise known as the black capuchin, is found in the Atlantic rainforest of southeastern South America. The black-horned capuchin can be found as far north as 15 degrees south latitude and as far south as 30 degrees south latitude. These geographic limits equate to as far north as southern Brazil and as far south of the tip of northern Argentina. The east-west bounds are as far as the east coast (45 degrees west longitude) to 60 degrees west longitude. (Fragaszy, et al., 2004; Kinzey, 1989)


The black-horned capuchin lives in the rainforests of South America. Cebus nigritus has been found to live in the middle canopy and below the canopy in forests ranging in elevation from 300 to 1000 m above sea level. As the capuchin depends on the presence of bromeliads, which are epiphytes that grow on mature trees, to navigate from tree to tree. (Di Bitetti and Janson, 2001; Eisenberg, 1989; Kinzey, 1989)

  • Range elevation
    300 to 1000 m
    984.25 to 3280.84 ft

Physical Description

The black-horned capuchin is so named because of two distinct patches of black fur on the top of the head. The fur on its back is a mix between black and dark brown, while their belly is a shade lighter. On the face, this species has white fur around its cheeks with black fur on the lateral sides of the face. Cebus nigritus, like all species of the capuchin, has a prehensile tail for grasping onto branches and limbs and navigating throughout the forest. The average weight of the black-horned capuchin ranges between 2.0-3.3 kg. The head and body length averages from about 32-55 cm, while the average length of the tail is 35-50cm. Males tend to range in length from around 45-55cm because of larger heads and bodies compared to the females., Juveniles do not look different from adults in terms of coat color, except for growth in size and weight; the fur will remain the same colors. (Alfaro, 2007; Eisenberg, 1989; Estrada, et al., 2006)

  • Sexual Dimorphism
  • male larger
  • Range mass
    2.0 to 3.3 kg
    4.41 to 7.27 lb
  • Range length
    32 to 55 cm
    12.60 to 21.65 in


The mating system of Cebus nigritus is solely initiated by the female but is decided by the alpha male. Once the female finds her target, for a few days the female will follow the male around. She will show interest by using facial expressions such as long smiles and eyebrow maneuvers attempting to gain the alpha male’s attention. She then will begin engaging physically with him by touching him, with a poke or a prod, and then abruptly running away, encouraging him to chase her. The female will often vocalize her interest by purring for hours in the general direction of her alpha male. After a few days have passed and the alpha male has noticed her interest, he will gain interest, claiming his female and initiating mating. The alpha male will mate with many different females throughout his lifetime to ensure to spread his offspring survive. (Di Bitetti and Janson, 2001; Kinzey, 1989)

The black-horned capuchin can mate year-round but is generally confined to early December until late April. The female’s pregnancy lasts for an average of 150 days, and will most likely be only one offspring. Females will wait at least 2 years until they breed again. When the offspring is born, the mother will take complete care of it until it is independent. Sexual maturity and independence is reached around four years for females and eight years for males. A newborn capuchin averages1.15 kg and is usually ceases growing by its third year. (Di Bitetti and Janson, 2001; Kinzey, 1989; Thompson and Georgiev, 2014)

  • Breeding interval
    Black-horned capuchins breed every 2 years
  • Breeding season
  • Average number of offspring
  • Average gestation period
    150 days
  • Average weaning age
    12 months
  • Average time to independence
    4 years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)
    4 years
  • Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male)
    8 years

For Cebus nigritus newborns, the mother will nurture the baby while the father protects the territory and hunts for food. The mother will carry the newborn on her chest for the first year of its life for protection and nurturing. After about a year, the mother will move the juvenile to her back, where the juvenile will latch itself to her back. When the infant reaches maturity at 4-8 years, it leaves its mother and becomes independent. (Kinzey, 1989; Wheeler, 2008)

  • Parental Investment
  • altricial
  • female parental care
  • pre-weaning/fledging
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • pre-independence
    • provisioning
      • female
    • protecting
      • female
  • maternal position in the dominance hierarchy affects status of young


In captivity the average lifespan of the black-horned capuchin ranges from 40 to 50 years. In the wild, the average lifespan is around 30 years. (Di Bitetti, 2013; Eisenberg, 1989; Kinzey, 1989)

  • Average lifespan
    Status: wild
    30 years
  • Typical lifespan
    Status: captivity
    40 to 50 years
  • Average lifespan
    Status: captivity
    50 years


Cebus nigritus tends to travel in packs, or troops, ranging from 5 to 25 (average = 15). This species swings and climbs from tree to tree to navigate throughout the habitat. Once the young male reaches its maturity around age 8, it will leave its troop and search for a mate. This will result in the female members of the group staying the same while different males will come and go. Each troop has an alpha male who provides protection for his troop. Because home ranges overlap, on average, by 35%, different troops have been observed foraging close to one another. The alpha males will confront the enemies with vocal screams, throwing rocks, and even fighting to try to scare the other group away. The alpha male is not just a warrior, but he is the leader of the troop. He decides where to forage, who is allowed to join their troop and who eats first. Social grooming is something that holds equality amongst the groups; this cleans, heals, and bonds the species. The capuchin species in general is a very mischievous species and the worst antagonists. Females mate with the alpha male as a sense of strength and survival. With a polygynandrous system, females breed every two years. While the mother is the primary caretaker, the father focuses solely on leading the group. (Kinzey, 1989; Matthews, 2009)

Home Range

The home range is effected by the availability of food and mates with the average of 80 ha to 150 ha. (Di Bitetti, 2013; Kinzey, 1989)

Communication and Perception

This capuchin species is known to have an extensive personality with a variety of facial expressions, which are used to communicate. It is also capable of grooming itself and others strengthening the bond between the two animals. For instance, a mother will groom its child as a form of nurturing. When foraging, this species will scream, whistle, and bark to communicate with its troop. Black-horned capuchins are color-blind, but this allows them to overcome the difficulty of finding camouflaged insects and other defensive tactics used by prey such as mimicry. Males will mark their own fur with urine, a signal to the females that the males are ready to mate. The female capuchins vocalize interest when ready to mate. Males will then begin screaming to show dominance and claim its companion. (Kinzey, 1989; Wheeler, 2010)

Food Habits

The black-horned capuchin is an omnivore with a main part of its diet including mostly fruits such as berries, seeds, and even leaves. This species has the ability to use tools and hands in order to peel fruits and to access shelled protected nuts. When both fruits and nuts are unavailable, Cebus nigritus also eats young frogs or birds, insects, and even the eggs of birds and amphibians. For example, treefrogs in Family Hylidae are commonly preyed on by the black-horned capuchin. AUTHORS (year) report the diet of the black-horned capuchin consists of about 50 to 75% fruits and nuts, 25 to 35% animals, and 7% other plants and shrubs.. Foraging for food is an all-day activity, occupying 70% of the day, from sunrise to late evening. This duty can be a loud and disturbing process between cracking nuts open and calling others for help, attracting other monkeys and even other predators such as jaguars, << Panthera onca>>, and hawks, << Harpia harpyja>>. Because of this, this species will seek food in groups known as troops, to provide protection while also covering more ground through the trees, raiding nests, and turning over rocks to find potential food. (Gomes and Bicca-Marques, 2011; Kinzey, 1989; Miller, 2002)

  • Animal Foods
  • birds
  • mammals
  • amphibians
  • eggs
  • insects
  • Plant Foods
  • leaves
  • wood, bark, or stems
  • seeds, grains, and nuts
  • fruit
  • flowers


Cebus nigritus is very alert and aware of its surroundings and will look out for members of its troop. When a predator is spotted such as jaguars (Panthera onca), harpy eagles (Harpia harpyja), cougars (Puma concolor), jaguarundis (Puma yagouaroundi), coyotes (Canis latrans), tayras (Eira barbara), pythons (Pythonidae), anacondas (Eunectes murinus), American crocodiles (Crocodylus acutus). The alpha male will vocalize with a whistling sound to alert his troop. This whistling tells the troop to run and take cover, while assembling the other males to fight off the predator. The black-horned capuchin often makes false alarm calls when no predators are nearby. (Janson, et al., 2014)

Ecosystem Roles

Cebus nigritus is important for the ecosystem due to its dispersal of seeds throughout the rainforest. The black-horned capuchin disperses seeds when foraging for food, this in turn helps regenerate forest life.

The black-horned capuchin is also a host to many parasitic cells. The roundworm (Microfilaria panamensis) will attach itself within the fur of the species into order to spread offspring. Another parasite is acanthocephalan (Prosthenorchis) which will lodge itself in the saliva of this species, and can harm the bowels. Toxoplasma gondii, is another parasite that can cause harm to the black-horned capuchin, although the signs of infection vary in different cases from diarrhea to small blood smears. (Keller Marques da Costa Flaiban, et al., 2008; Kinzey, 1989; Wright, et al., 2015)

  • Ecosystem Impact
  • disperses seeds
Commensal/Parasitic Species
  • roundworms (Microfilaria panamensis)
  • toxoplasmosis (Toxoplasma gondii)
  • acanthocephalans (Prosthenorchis)

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

The black-horned capuchin is commonly hunted and used for bush meat. This species is also kept as a pet in some households and used in public zoos for breeding and research purposes. (Kinzey, 1989; Sabbatini, et al., 2006)

  • Positive Impacts
  • pet trade
  • food
  • body parts are source of valuable material
  • research and education

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

The black-horned capuchin will raid the sugar canes and pine farms on local plantations. This results in a loss of profit for the local businesses. This species also has been known to be a carrier for rabies. If scratched, bit, or come in direct contact with the infected saliva to an open wound, the rabies will spread. (Bos Mikich and Liebsch, 2015; Kinzey, 1989; Puglia Machado, et al., 2012)

Conservation Status

Cebus nigritus is listed as “Near Threatened” according the IUCN Red List and is on Appendix ll of CITES. Appendix II grants access to trade the species but maintains the amount. If needed, the Appendix II gives permission to trade look alike species, in order for protection.

A major contributing threat is hunting and poaching. Humans track and kill these animals for money, trophies, and fur and bush meat. Besides hunting, there is deforestation, which removes suitable habitat from the capuchins’ geographic range. There are a number of protected areas of the rainforest that prohibit any hunting, poaching, or deforestation. The largest protected park is Iguazu National Park, which is located in Argentina and Brazil. This could probably be better developed, especially if a species is near threatened – look around for more info about conservation measures (Fragaszy, et al., 2004; Kinzey, 1989)


Nate Welch (author), Radford University, Cari Mcgregor (editor), Radford University, Zeb Pike (editor), Radford University, Karen Powers (editor), Radford University, April Tingle (editor), Radford University, Jacob Vaught (editor), Radford University, Tanya Dewey (editor), University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.



living in the southern part of the New World. In other words, Central and South America.

World Map


uses sound to communicate


young are born in a relatively underdeveloped state; they are unable to feed or care for themselves or locomote independently for a period of time after birth/hatching. In birds, naked and helpless after hatching.


Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.

bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.

causes disease in humans

an animal which directly causes disease in humans. For example, diseases caused by infection of filarial nematodes (elephantiasis and river blindness).

causes or carries domestic animal disease

either directly causes, or indirectly transmits, a disease to a domestic animal


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate

  1. active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.
dominance hierarchies

ranking system or pecking order among members of a long-term social group, where dominance status affects access to resources or mates


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.

female parental care

parental care is carried out by females


A substance that provides both nutrients and energy to a living thing.


forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.

native range

the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.


an animal that mainly eats all kinds of things, including plants and animals

pet trade

the business of buying and selling animals for people to keep in their homes as pets.


the kind of polygamy in which a female pairs with several males, each of which also pairs with several different females.


rainforests, both temperate and tropical, are dominated by trees often forming a closed canopy with little light reaching the ground. Epiphytes and climbing plants are also abundant. Precipitation is typically not limiting, but may be somewhat seasonal.

scent marks

communicates by producing scents from special gland(s) and placing them on a surface whether others can smell or taste them

seasonal breeding

breeding is confined to a particular season


remains in the same area


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


associates with others of its species; forms social groups.


uses touch to communicate


Living on the ground.


defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement


the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.


uses sight to communicate


reproduction in which fertilization and development take place within the female body and the developing embryo derives nourishment from the female.


Agostini, I., E. Pizzio, C. De Angelo, M. Di Bitetti. 2015. Population tatus of primates in the Atlantic Forest of Argentina. International Journal of Primatology, 36/2: 244-258.

Alfaro, J. 2007. Subgrouping patterns in a group of wild Cebus apella nigritus. International Journal of Primatology, 28/2: 271-289.

Bos Mikich, S., D. Liebsch. 2015. Damage to forest plantations by tufted capuchins: Too many monkeys or not enough fruits. Forest Ecology and Management, 314: 1-9.

Di Bitetti, M. 2013. Cebus nigritus impact the seedling assemblage below their main sleeping sites. Studies on Neotropical Fauna & Environment, 48/ 2: p142-146.

Di Bitetti, M., C. Janson. 2001. Reproductive socioecology of tufted capuchins (Cebus apella nigritus) in northeastern Argentina. International Journal of Primatology, 22/ 2: 127-142.

Eisenberg, J. 1989. Mammals of the Neotropics. Chicago: University of Chicago.

Estrada, A., M. P. Garber, L. M. Pavelka. 2006. New perspectives in the study of Mesoamerican primates : distribution, ecology, behavior, and conservation.. New York: Springer.

Fragaszy, D., E. Visalberghi, L. Fedigan. 2004. The Complete Capuchin:The Biology of the Genus Cebus. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University.

Gomes, D., J. Bicca-Marques. 2011. Capuchin monkeys (Cebus nigritus) use spatial and visual information during within-patch foraging. American Journal of Primatology, 74/1: 58-67.

Janson, C., J. Monzon, C. Baldovino. 2014. Experimental analysis of predator and prey detection abilities in rainforest: Who has the advantage?. Behaviour, 151/10: 1491-1512.

Keller Marques da Costa Flaiban, K., K. Anderson H. Spohr, L. de Souza Malanski, W. Kühl Svoboda, M. M. Shiozawa, C. Lúcia S. Hilst, L. Moraes Aguiar, G. Ludwig, F. C. Passos, I. Teodorico Navarro, M. Regina Stipp Balarin, J. Augusto Naylor Lisbôa. 2008. Hematologic Values of Free-ranging Cebus cay and Cebus nigritus in Southern Brazil. International Journal of Primatology, Vol. 29: 1375-1382.

Kinzey, W. 1989. New World Primates: Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior. New York: Aldine De Gruyter..

Matthews, L. 2009. Activity patterns, home range size, and intergroup encounters in Cebus albifrons support existing models of capuchin socioecology. International Journal of Primatology, 30/5: 709-728.

Miller, L. 2002. Eat or Be Eaten:Predator Sensitive Foraging Among Primates. United Kingdom: Cambridge University.

Puglia Machado, G., J. Marcelo Azevedo de Paula Antunes, W. Uieda, A. Welker Biondo, T. Morosini de Andrade Cruvinel, A. Paula Kataoka, L. Fátima Alves Martorelli, D. de Jong, J. Margareth Gimenes Amaral, E. Guilherme Lux Hoppe, G. Guerra Neto, J. Megid. 2012. Exposure to rabies virus in a population of free-ranging capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella nigritus) in a fragmented, environmentally protected area in southeastern Brazil. Primates, 53/3: 227-231.

Sabbatini, G., M. Stammati, M. Tavares, M. Giuliani, E. Visalberghi. 2006. Interactions between humans and capuchin monkeys (Cebus libidinosus) in the Parque Nacional de Bras ́ılia, Brazil. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 97: 272–283.

Thompson, M., A. Georgiev. 2014. The high price of success: Costs of mating effort in male primates. International Journal Of Primatology, 35/3-4: 609-627.

Wheeler, B. 2010. Production and perception of situationally variable alarm calls in wild tufted capuchin monkeys (Cebus apella nigritus). Behavioral Ecology & Sociobiology, 64/6: 989-1000.

Wheeler, B. 2008. Selfish or altruistic? An analysis of alarm call function in wild capuchin monkeys, Cebus apella nigritus. Animal Behavour, 76/5: 1465–1475.

Wright, K., B. Wright, S. Ford, D. Fragaszy, P. Izar, M. Norconk, T. Masterson, D. Hobbs, M. Alfaro, J. Lynch Alfaro. 2015. The effects of ecology and evolutionary history on robust capuchin morphological diversity. Elsevier, 82: 455-466.