Tufted Capuchin

The tufted capuchin (Cebus apella), also known as brown capuchin or black-capped capuchin is a New World primate from South America.

Tufted capuchins are omnivorous animals, mostly feeding on fruits and invertebrates. They sometimes feed on small vertebrates (e.g. lizards and bird chicks) and other plant parts. It can be found in many different kinds of environments. These environments include moist tropical and subtropical forest, dry forest and disturbed or secondary forest.

Like other capuchins, these are social animals. They form groups of 8 to 15 individuals, and are led by an alpha or dominant male.

Physical characteristics

The tufted capuchin is more powerfully built than the other capuchins. It has rougher fur and a short, thick tail. It has a bundle of long, hardened hair on the forehead that can be raised as a sort of “wig”. The fur is brownish gray, with the belly being somewhat lighter colored than the rest of the body. The hands and feet are black. The tail is strong and can be used as a grasping tail.

The Tufted Capuchin has a head-body length of 12.6 to 22.4 in (32 to 57 cm), a tail length of 14.7 to 22.05 in (38 to 56 cm). It has a weight of 4.19 to 10.58 lbs (1.9 to 4.8 kg), with the males generally being larger and heavier than the females.

Distribution and habitat

This species lives in the northern Amazon rainforest of the Guyanas and Brazil to the west of the Rio Negro. It is as far north as the Orinoco in Venezuela. It can be found in a large variety of forest types. It is mainly found in tropical rainforests, but also in more open forests.


It often forages on the ground to search for food or to walk longer distances between trees that are too far apart to jump. During the night, the capuchin rests in a hollow tree or between dense branches.

The tufted capuchin lives in groups of two to twenty animals. A single group usually contains only one adult male, but mixed groups with multiple males do also occur. In that case one of the males is dominant. He accepts only a few apes in his direct surroundings. These are mainly younger animals and a few females. The dominant male and the group members that are close to him have the privilege to eat first in case of food scarcity. The subordinate apes have to wait until they are ready.

As opposed to some other capuchins, a group of tufted capuchins has no fixed territory. Different groups are often encountered in the same area.


A well-known characteristic of this species is that it uses stones as a tool to open hard nuts. First it lays the nut on a large, flat stone. Then, it hammers with a smaller stone until the nut is opened. Besides nuts, it also eats fruit, insects, larvae, eggs, young birds, frogs, lizards, and even bats.

Tufted capuchins look for their food in groups. As soon as one of the group members has found something edible, they make a large whistling sound so that the other monkeys know that there is something to eat. The composition of the group is very well organized and is determined by rank in the hierarchy. The dominant male often resides somewhere in the middle of the group just behind the front line. It is safer when a predator attacks.