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Golden-bellied capuchin[1]
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Primates
Suborder: Haplorhini
Infraorder: Simiiformes
Family: Cebidae
Genus: Sapajus
S. xanthosternos
Binomial name
Sapajus xanthosternos
Wied, 1826
Geographic range

Cebus xanthosternos

The golden-bellied capuchin (Sapajus xanthosternos), also known as the yellow-breasted or buff-headed capuchin, is a species of New World monkey.


Although there are differences between individuals as well as between the sexes and across age groups, S. xanthosternos is described as having a distinctive yellow to golden red chest, belly and upper arms.[3] Its face is a light brown and its cap for which the capuchins were first named is a dark brown/black or light brown. Formerly thought to be a subspecies of tufted capuchin (S. apella), it was elevated to the status of species.[3][4] Despite this previous classification, S. xanthosternos does not have very evident tufts, as they are oriented towards the rear of the skull and are hardly noticeable. A band of short hair around the upper part of the face with speckled colouring contrasts with the darker surrounding areas. The limbs and tail are also darkly coloured.


Capuchins males stand around 15.7 in (40 cm) tall weighing an average of 8.8 lbs (4 kg). Females are 14.6 in (37 cm) tall at round 5.5 lb (2.5 kg). Their prehensile tails are about the same length as their bodies and is helpful for swinging and climbing through the canopy. Capuchins have opposable big toes and long fingers assisting with climbing as well.

Life Span

Capuchins life span is around 15-25 years when living in the wild. They can live much longer in captivity to about 50 years.[5]

Distribution and habitat

Populations of S. xanthosternos are restricted to the Atlantic forest of south-eastern Bahia, Brazil, due possibly to high degrees of interference from humans. Historically they probably would have inhabited the entire area east of, and north to, the Rio São Francisco.[6]

The largest continuous area of forest in its known range, the Una Biological Reserve in Bahia, is estimated to contain a population of 185 individuals.[7] As of 2004, there were 85 individuals in zoos and breeding facilities in Europe and Brazil.[7]


Capuchins are arboreal, living mainly in trees.[8]


Capuchins live in groups consisting of about 3-30 individuals with a hierarchy determining their social status. There is usually an equal number of males to females living together with a male and female alpha. The rest of the individuals are lower in rank. The alpha male will defend his territory if approached by another group. Capuchins spend much of their time grooming each other as a means of socialization with the alpha getting the most attention. They often participate in “urine washing” by covering themselves in their own urine to mark their territory. This scent will travel with them.


Capuchins communicate making short and frequent yipping whines similar to a newborn pup. When in danger, they emit a two-toned clunking noise. Many of the noises Capuchins make are similar to bird sounds. They also communicate through chemical signals to express territory boundaries as well as during mating rituals.[9]


Their coloration makes them camouflage into their habitat making them more difficult to spot by a predator. When capuchins are on the ground or near water, they can fall prey to predators such as snakes, large raptors, crocodiles, or large carnivorous mammals. The larger the group, the less chance they have of becoming prey due to a higher number of vigilant individuals. If a predator is spotted, the Capuchin will alert the others using their alarm call. Capuchins have acute olfactory senses helping them to distinguish scent marks left behind by other groups.


Golden-bellied capuchins feed on both plant and animal origins making them omnivores. They mostly feed on plants such as fruits, seeds, flowers, nuts, leaves and stems, and nectar. They also eat insects, bird eggs, frogs, small reptiles, birds, bats, or other small mammals. Capuchins residing near marine areas will feed on oysters, crabs or other shellfish.


Capuchins can mate year-round but females will give birth every two years. A female’s gestation period is 150-180 days and give birth to one infant. Newborns are 100% reliant on their mothers for their first year of life and become independent around 6-12 months. Female Capuchins reach maturity around 4-5 years old and start mating and giving birth at 7-8 years old. Males reach maturity and are fertile around 6-8 years.[6]</ref>


Capuchins mate with more than one partner making them polygynandrous. The alpha-male of the group always has first choice of which female will be his mate. The other males of the group are also sexually active but the alpha has the most reproductive success. The alpha-male is most desired by the females as he will provide the most protection to his young. Unique mating rituals occur in order for the female to attract a male. She will first raise her eyebrows and move her head back and forth. She will touch him and runaway while murmuring noises. The male will make eye contact with her and also make noises. They perform a dance just before mating by jumping and spinning in the air. Just after mating, they will continue the dance for several seconds.[8]



The Capuchin is listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as critically endangered.[2] The population of the Capuchin within the last 50 years has declined over 50%. Any remaining habitats are protected including the largest place called Una Biological Reserve in Bahia, Brazil, home to about 185 Capuchin.


Capuchins are endemic to Brazil's rainforests which are in danger of deforestation for agriculture and logging. This is causing fragmentation of the forests threatening their habitat. Groups of Capuchins are being separated from one another causing interbreeding which results in biodiversity loss ultimately causing an extinction vortex. Capuchins are also in danger of being hunted.


  1. ^ Groves, C. P. (2005). Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M. (eds.). Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 138. ISBN 0-801-88221-4. OCLC 62265494.
  2. ^ a b Canale, G.R.; Alonso, A.C.; Martins, W.P.; Jerusalinsky, L.; de Melo, F.R.; Kierulff, M.C.M.; Mittermeier, R.A.; Lynch Alfaro, J.W. (2021). "Sapajus xanthosternos". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2021: e.T4074A192592138. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2021-1.RLTS.T4074A192592138.en. Retrieved 19 November 2021.
  3. ^ a b Groves, Colin P. (2001). Primate Taxonomy. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press. ISBN 1-56098-872-X.
  4. ^ Mittermeier, R. A., Rylands, A. B., and Coimbra Filho, A, F. 1998, systematics: Species and Subspecies, an update. Ecology and Behaviour of Neotropical Primates, Volume 2. World Wide Fund. pp 13-75
  5. ^ Flesher, Kevin Michael (Dec 2015). "The Distribution, Habitat Use, and Conservation Status of Three Atlantic Forest Monkeys (Sapajus Xanthosternos, Callicebus Melanochir, Callithrix Sp.) in an Agroforestry/Forest Mosaic in Southern Bahia, Brazil". International Journal of Primatology. 36 (6): 1172–1197. doi:10.1007/s10764-015-9884-7. S2CID 18133345.
  6. ^ a b Coimbra Filho, A. F., Ryland, A. B., Pissinatti, A., Santos, I. B. 1991/1992, The Distribution and Conservation of the buff headed Capuchin Monkey, Cebus xanthosternos, In the Atlantic Forest Region of Eastern Brazil. Primate Conservation 12-13, 24-30.
  7. ^ a b Maria Cecilia M. Kierulff; Jean-Marc Lernould; William R. Konstant; Gustavo Canale; Gabriel Rodrigues dos Santos; Carlos Eduardo Guidorizzi; Camila Cassano (2004). "Yellow-Breasted Capuchin, Cebus xanthosternos". IUCN/SSC Primate Specialist Group. Archived from the original on 2011-08-23.
  8. ^ a b Back J, Suzin, A, Aguiar L. June 2019. Activity budget and social behavior of urban capuchin monkeys, Sapajus sp. (Primates: Cebidae). ZOOLOGIA 36: e30845.
  9. ^ Flesher, Kevin Michael (Dec 2015). "The Distribution, Habitat Use, and Conservation Status of Three Atlantic Forest Monkeys (Sapajus Xanthosternos, Callicebus Melanochir, Callithrix Sp.) in an Agroforestry/Forest Mosaic in Southern Bahia, Brazil". International Journal of Primatology. 36 (6): 1172–1197.