Ateles geoffroyi


Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family

Scientific Name: Ateles geoffroyi
Species Authority: Kuhl, 1820
Infra-specific Taxa Assessed:
Common Name/s:
English Geoffroy’s Spider Monkey, Mono Colorado, Geoffroy's Spider Monkey, Black-handed Spider Monkey, Central American Spider Monkey
French Atèle De Geoffroy
Spanish Mico, Mono Araña
Ateles fusciceps Gray, 1866
Taxonomic Notes: The taxonomy of the spider monkeys is based on Kellogg and Goldman (1944) and Hill (1962). Silva-López et al. (1996) argued that Ateles geoffroyi panwas not a valid taxon. Groves (2001, 2005) placed A. geoffroyi panamensis Kellogg and Goldman, 1944, as a junior synonym of A. geoffroyi ornatus. The taxonomy and distributions of Ateles geoffroyi and Ateles fusciceps are reviewed by Rylands et al. (2006).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Endangered A2c ver 3.1
Year Published: 2008
Date Assessed: 2008-06-30
Assessor/s: Cuarón, A.D., Morales, A., Shedden, A., Rodriguez-Luna, E., de Grammont, P.C. & Cortés-Ortiz, L.
Reviewer/s: Mittermeier, R.A. & Rylands, A.B. (Primate Red List Authority)
This species is listed as Endangered since although it still occurs in some large areas of suitable habitat (Darien, Moskitia in Honduras and Nicaragua, Mayan Forest, and Chimalapa-Uxpanapan El Ocote Region, Mexico), habitat loss across its range has been severe such that it is estimated that the species has declined by as much as 50% over the course of the past 45 years (three generations). The taxonomy of the subspecies needs to be revisited.
2003 Least Concern (IUCN 2003)
2003 Least Concern
1996 Lower Risk/least concern (Baillie and Groombridge 1996)
1994 Vulnerable (Groombridge 1994)
1990 Vulnerable (IUCN 1990)
1988 Vulnerable (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1988)
1986 Vulnerable (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1986)
1982 Vulnerable (Thornback and Jenkins 1982)

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description: There are seven recognized subspecies:

The distribution of Ateles geoffroyi geoffroyiis given by Kellogg and Goldman (1944) as the coastal region around San Juan del Norte or Martina Bay, southeastern Nicaragua; probably ranging across the lowlands to the vicinity of Lake Managua and Lake Nicaragua on the Pacific coast. It possibly extends into northern Costa Rica, although the true distribution of this species is unknown. Specimens examined by Kellogg and Goldman (1944) were from Managua, Nicaragua.

Ateles geoffroyi azuerensis is definitely known only from the western (Veraguas) side of the forested mountains of the Azuero peninsula in the vicinity of Ponuga, where it appears to be isolated. Kellogg and Goldman (1944) indicated that it may occur to the west along the Pacific coast to the Burica Peninsula, near the Panama-Costa Rica border. Kellogg and Goldman (1944) tentatively attributed a series of skulls 25 skulls from the collection of Adolph H. Schultz (no skins, but reported to have been light coloured) from Río La Vaca, near Puerto Armmuelles, Burica Peninsula to A. g. azuerensis. Baldwin and Baldwin (1976) found no evidence that spider monkeys ever occurred in the Province of Chiriquí. Konstant et al. (1985) reported that the Azuero Pensinula was widely deforested and that subspecies is likely to be surviving only in western parts.

Ateles geoffroyi frontatus is believed to range through northwestern Costa Rica and extreme western and northern Nicaragua (Kellogg and Goldman 1944). Specimens from Nicaragua examined by Kellogg and Goldman (1944) were from the following localities: Lavala; Peña Blanca; Río Siquia; Río Yoya, a tributary of the Río Princapolca; Tuma and Uluce. Allen (1908, 1910) recorded Ateles geoffroyifrom the east slope of the Nicaraguan highlands, Savala (800 ft), Tuma (1,000 ft), Peña Blanca (high point in low Atlantic coast forests, 1,500 ft) and Uluce (about 1,000 ft), and in the highlands of northern Nicaragua at Matagalpa (2,000 ft).

Ateles geoffroyi grisescens is a subspecies of doubtful validity. Kellogg and Goldman (1944) presumed that it occurred in the valley of the Río Tuyra and probably south-eastward through the Serranía del Sapo of extreme south-eastern Panama and the Cordillera de Baudó of north-western Colombia. Matamoros and Seal (2001) indicate its occurrence in the basin of the lower Río Tuira in Panama and the frontier zone with Colombia. Heltne and Kunkel (1975) indicated Cerro Pirre or Río Tucutí as marking the limits of its range with A. f. rufiventris to the north. Hernández-Camacho and Cooper (1976) indicated that grisescens occurs in Colombia: “…[it] is known only from the vicinity of Juradó very near the Panamanian border on the Pacific coast. It is undoubtedly restricted by the Baudó Mountains to a narrow coastal strip that may extend as far south as Cabo Corrientes.” (p.66). Defler et al. (2003) recorded that there is no recent information regarding its presence or otherwise along the Panamanian border, but that colonists near the northern parts of the Serranía de Baudó region talk of two “types” of Ateles, one in the lowlands (definitely A. fusciceps) and another form above 500–600 m altitude (J. V. Rodríguez-M. unpubl.), the only real suggestion that this taxon might actually be present in Colombia. A. fusciceps in the central part of the Sierra de Baudó would indicate that the occurrence of grisescens therefore would be limited to the portion immediately abutting Panama, and not the entire mountain range (Defler et al. 2003).

Ateles geoffroyi ornatus is found in forested regions of Panama, east of the Canal Zone (Cordillera San Blas), and west through Chiriquí to central western Costa Rica. Heltne and Kunkel (1975) give the following localities as marking the eastern limit of its range: San Juan, Cerro Brujo, Cerro Azul and Río Pequeñi—all on or within the boundary line of the Madden Lake watershed, and nowhere more than 30 miles east of the Panama Canal. The Río Bayano basin just to the east is occupied by A. fusciceps rufiventris (see Handley 1966; Heltne and Kunkel 1975). This is the spider monkey of the Osa Peninsula, Corcovado National Park and Carara Biological Reserve in Costa Rica (Matamoros and Seal 2001). The population on the Island of Barro Colorado is introduced (Carpenter 1935; J. F. Eisenberg pers. comm. in Konstant et al. 1985). Crockett et al. (1997; see also Cody 1994; Querol et al. 1996) observed spider monkeys in the Refugio Bartola / Reserva Indio-Maíz (300,000 ha), along the Río Bartola, north of the Río San Juan along the frontier with Costa Rica. They were unable to identify the subspecies but said that, unlike A. g. geoffroyi, they were “distinctly reddish on the back and on the top of the tail; the ends of the limbs were dark” (p.73).

Ateles geoffroyi vellerosus occurs in the forests of Veracruz and eastern San Luis Potosí and south-eastward through Tabasco, across the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in eastern Oaxaca, including the highlands of Guatemala (thought by Kellogg and Goldman [1944] to have been occupied by A. g. pan, here considered a synonym) through El Salvador and Honduras, including the north coast to the lowlands of the Mosquitia in the Department of Gracias a Dios.

Ateles geoffroyi yucatanensis occurs in the forests of the Yucatán peninsula, north-eastern Guatemala, and adjoining parts of Belize, intergrading to the south in Mexico (Campeche) and Guatemela with vellerosus. Parra Lara and Jorgenson (1998) reported on a survey of 36 localities in the state of Quintana Roo. They confirmed the presence of spider monkeys in 11 of them, and received reports of their occurrence in a further 19, extending from the Ejido Tres Garantias in the south to locations way in the north, near Cancún, at Cenote Notnozot. Ramos-Fernández and Ayala-Orozco (2003) have studied the population size and habitat use of A. g. yucatanensis around the Punta Laguna, Quintana Roo.
Belize; Colombia (Colombia (mainland)); Costa Rica (Costa Rica (mainland)); El Salvador; Guatemala; Honduras (Honduras (mainland)); Mexico; Nicaragua (Nicaragua (mainland)); Panama
Range Map: Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population: Ateles geoffroyi azuerensis
A total of 112 - 116 individuals has been estimated for this subspecies (Mendez-Carvajal, Ruiz-Bernard, Franco and Silva, in prep.).

Ateles geoffroyi yucatanensis
Cant (1978) estimated 24.5 individuals/km² at Tikal, Guatemala. Coelho et al. (1976) estimated a higher density of 45 individuals/km². Populaions of this species can be very high in well prtoected areas: Ramos-Fernández and Ayala-Orozco, 2003) recorded 89.5 individuals/km² in what they refer to as "relatively undisturbed semi-evergreen medium forest [as opposed to successional forest] with trees up to 20 m in height" at Punta Laguna, Quintana Roo. The estimated a toital population of 648 individuals in the 7.7-km² Punta Laguna Sanctuary.

Ateles geoffroyi frontatus
A rough estimate of the population the Santa Rosa National Park, Costa Rica, given by Freese (1976) was 110-160 individuals (6-9 individuals/km²).

Ateles geoffroyi grisescens
This subspecies likely does not exist. The two subspecies descriptions do not match, it has never been observed in the wild, and there is only one poor account from a zoo (A. L. Morales pers. comm, 2004).
Population Trend: Decreasing

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology: Occurs in primary lowland rain forest, evergreen and semideciduous, and will enter deciduous forest (Santa Rosa National Park, Costa Rica: Freese 1976; Ortiz-Martínez and Rico-Gray 2007)

Spider monkeys travel and forage in the upper levels of the forest. They spend much time in the canopy and also use the middle and lower strata but are rarely seen in the understorey. In accordance with their use of the highest levels of the forest, they are highly suspensory. When travelling they spend more time hanging from branches, moving by brachiation and arm swinging, and climbing than they do walking or running on all fours. They are highly frugivorous and feed largely on the mature, soft parts of a very wide variety of fruits, which comprise 83% of their diet and are found mainly in the emergent trees and upper part of the forest canopy (Van Roosmalen and Klein 1988). They also eat young leaves and flowers (both especially at times of fruit shortage during the beginning of the dry season), and besides such as young seeds, floral buds, pseudobulbs, aerial roots, bark, decaying wood, and honey, and very occasionally small insects such as termites and caterpillars. They play a significant role as seed dispersers. Van Roosmalen (1985; Van Roosmalen and Klein 1988) found that A. paniscus was dispersing the seeds of at least 138 species (93.5% of all fruits species used) through their ingestion and subsequent defecation (endozoochory). A further 10 species were being dispersed by the monkeys carrying them off some distance from the tree before dropping them (exozoochory). In only 23 species were the seeds being ruined or eaten (seed predation).

Spider monkeys live in groups of up to 20-30 individuals (for review see Van Roosmalen and Klein 1988). However, they are very rarely all seen together, and nearly always to be found travelling, feeding and resting small in groups of varying size and composition (most usually 2-4), the only persistent association being that of a mother and her offspring (McFarland Symington 1990). Group sizes of A. geoffroyi can range from 16-24 (Di Fiore and Campbell 2007). Group members will also travel on their own. Each female in the group has a “core area” of the group’s home range which she uses most. Klein and Klein (1976, 1977) estimated 259-388 ha ranges with 20-30% overlap for A. belzebuth in La Macarena National Park, Colombia. Ateles are rarely seen in association with other primates and mostly they are occasional and ephemeral, resulting from the simultaneous occupation of fruiting trees.

Freese (1976) recorded high numbers of infants in the dry season (December-May) in the Santa Rosa National Park, Costa Rica. Spider monkeys apparently reach sexual maturity at 4-5 years of age (Klein 1971; Eisenberg 1973, 1976). They give birth to single offspring after a long gestation period of 226-232 days, with a minimum theoretical interbirth interval in captivity of 17.5 months, but in the wild probably as long as 28-30 months (Eisenberg 1973, 1976; see also Milton 1981; Chapman and Chapman 1990). Late maturation and long inter-birth intervals make it difficult for them to recover from hunting and other threats.

Adult male weight 7.42-9.00 kg (mean 8.26 kg, n=56), adult female weight 6.0-9.4 kg (mean 7.7 kg, n = >100) (Ford and Davis 1992).
Systems: Terrestrial

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The major threat to this species is habitat loss, with several subspecies having been subject to very high rates of loss (see, for example, Cuarón 1997; Sánchez-Azofeifa et al. 2001; Velázquez and Estrada 2002). However, there remain several large areas of relatively continuous habitat in the Selva Maya (Mexico, Guatemala and Belize), in the Atlantic zone of Nicaragua and Honduras, and along the Atlantic coast and the Darien in Panama. The species is also subject to exploitation in pet trafficking in some areas and is hunted in some regions.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: This species is confirmed, or may occur, in a number of protected areas across its range, including:

Ateles geoffroyi geoffroyi

Costa Rica
Arenal National Park (2,000 ha)

Ateles geoffroyi azuerensis

Cerro Hoya National Park (32,557 ha) (Matamoros and Seal 2001)
La Tronosa Forest Reserve (13,040 ha) (in range)
Estero Bahia de Muertos (in range)
Estero Ríos Tabasara – Bubi (in range)
Estero Río La Villa (in range)
Peñon de la Honda (2,000 ha) (in range)
Isla de Cañas (25,433 ha) (in range)
El Montuoso Forest Reserve (10,375 ha) (in range)

Ateles geoffroyi frontatus

Costa Rica
Santa Rosa National Park (21,913 ha) (Freese 1976; Fedigan and Rose 1995; Matamoros et al. 1996; Matamoros and Seal 2001)
Rincón La Vieja National Park (14,083 ha) (Matamoros et al. 1996; Matamoros and Seal 2001)
Palo Verde National Park (5,704 ha) (Matamoros and Seal 2001)
Barra Honda National Park (2,295 ha) (Matamoros et al. 1996)
Guanacaste National Park (33,786 ha) (Matamoros et al. 1996)
Cabo Blanco Strict Nature Reserve (14,258 ha) (Matamoros et al. 1996; Lippold 1989; Matamoros and Seal 2001. Lippold reported that spider monkeys were extinct in the reserve)

Ateles geoffroyi grisescens

Canglón National Park (31,650 ha) (in range)

Ateles geoffroyi ornatus

Porto Belo National Park (34,848 ha) (in range)
Chagres National Park (129,000 ha) (in range)
La Amistad International Park (in range)
Soberanía National Park (22,104 ha) (in range)
El Copé – Comar Torrijos Herrera (25,275 ha) (in range)
Volcán Baru National Park (14,000 ha) (in range)
Altos de Campaña National Park (4,816 ha) (in range)
La Fortuna Water Production Reserve (26,000 ha) (in range)
La Yeguada Forest Reserve (7,090 ha) (in range)
Estero Rio San Juan (in range)
Cerre Cerrezuela – Rio Grande (in range)
Cienega (Cenegón) del Mangle (1,000 ha) (in range)
Palo Seco Protection Forest (244,000 ha) (in range)
Isla Barro Colorado Natural Monument (5,600 ha)

Costa Rica
Tortuguero National Park (18,946 ha) (Boza 1987; Matamoroset al. 1996; Matamoros and Seal 2001)
Volcán Poás National Park 5,317 ha) (in range)
Braulio Carrillo National Park (44,898 ha) (Matamoros et al. 1996; Matamoros and Seal 2001)
Volcán Irazú National Park (2,309 ha) (in range)
Cahuita National Park (1,067 ha) (in range)
La Amistad (Talamanca) International Park (193,929 ha)
Chirripó National Park (50,150 ha) (in range)
Manuel Antonio National Park (682 ha) (in range)
Corcovado National Park (41,788 ha) (Matamoros et al., 1996; Matamoros and Seal 2001)
Volcán Tenorio National Park (12,819 ha) (in range)
Piedras Blancas National Park (14,100 ha) (in range
La Selva Protection Zone (2,815 ha) (Fishkind and Sussman 1987; Campbell and Sussman 1994)
El Zota Biological Field Station (1,000 ha) (Pruetz and LaDuke 2001)

Ateles geoffroyi vellerosus

Palenque National Park (1,771 ha) (Estrada and Coates-Estrada 1984)
Volcán de San Martin Special Biosphere Reserve (1,500 ha) (Estrada and Coates-Estrada 1984)
Sierra de Santa Marta Special Biosphere Reserve (20,000 ha) (Silva-López 1982)
Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve (Selva Lacandona) (331,200 ha) (Mexico, SEDUE 1989
El Triunfo National Biosphere Reserve (119,595 ha)

Ateles geoffroyi yucatanensis

Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary (40,000 ha) (Horwich et al. 1993; Rodríguez-Luna et al. 1996a,b)
Upper Bladen (35,000 ha) (Matamoros and Seal 2001)

Rio Dulce National Park (9,610 ha) (Silva-López et al. 1995)
Tikal National Park (57,600 ha) (Coelho et al. 1976)
Sierra de las Minas Biosphere Reserve (236,300 ha) (Silva-López et al. 1995)

Cañon del Sumidero National Park (21,789 ha) (Castilleja et al. 1996)
Tulum National Park (664 ha) (in range)
Ria Celestun Special Biosphere Reserve (59,130 ha) (Matamoros and Seal 2001)
Ria Lagartos Special Biosphere Reserve (47,840 ha) (Matamoros and Seal 2001)
Calakmul Biosphere Reserve (723,185 ha) (Matamoros and Seal 2001).

This species is listed on Appendix II of CITES (except for A. g. frontatus and A. g. panamensis, which are listed on Appendix I).
Citation: Cuarón, A.D., Morales, A., Shedden, A., Rodriguez-Luna, E., de Grammont, P.C. & Cortés-Ortiz, L. 2008. Ateles geoffroyi. In: IUCN 2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. <>. Downloaded on 21 April 2014.
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