Sapajus – Robust (tufted) capuchins

Diverged about 6.2 million years ago from genera Cebus (gracile capuchin monkeys)

Capuchins are New World primates known for their striking intelligence, social complexity, and versatile foraging behaviors. Distinguished by their diurnal habits, these monkeys are predominantly arboreal, navigating the treetops with remarkable agility through a combination of jumping and climbing. Their physical dexterity and mental acuity make them among the most intriguing subjects of primate research, shedding light on the cognitive abilities of non-human animals.

Capuchins are highly social creatures, forming groups typically ranging from 8 to 15 individuals, though some groups may be larger depending on environmental factors and food availability. These groups are structured around a clear hierarchy, with a dominant male leading and having prioritized access to resources and mating opportunities. This dominance ensures the leader’s genetic legacy and plays a crucial role in group cohesion and conflict resolution.

Social grooming is a vital activity within these groups, serving not only to maintain hygiene but also to strengthen social bonds and alleviate tension among members. The intricate social life of capuchins underscores their need for social interaction and mutual support, which is critical for their survival in the wild.

Sapajus species are omnivorous, with a diet that is both diverse and adaptive to their environmental conditions. Fruits and leaves constitute a significant portion of their diet, supplemented by insects, which provide essential proteins. Additionally, capuchins exhibit remarkable ingenuity in hunting frogs and small birds, and they are known for their ability to use tools, such as rocks, to crack open nuts—a behavior that underscores their problem-solving skills and cognitive complexity.

Black-capped capuchins, in particular, demonstrate versatility in their diet by including small mammals, illustrating the adaptive nature of their foraging strategies. This adaptability ensures their survival across various habitats and seasons, making them proficient foragers and opportunistic feeders.