Life span: around 30 years
Total population: Unknown
Gestation: 7-7.5 months
Height: 49.8 cm (M), 49.2 cm (F)
Weight: L. lagotricha: 7.28 kg (M), 7.02 kg (F); L. cana: 9.49 kg (M), 7.65 kg (F)
Species: L. cana, L. lagotricha, L. lugens, L. poeppigii
Subspecies: L. cana cana, L. c. tschudii
Other names: L. cana: L. lagotricha cana, Geoffroy's Peruvian woolly
monkey, Geoffroy's woolly monkey; L. c. cana: Geoffroy's woolly monkey;
mono barrigudo (Spanish); L. c. tschudii: Peruvian woolly monkey;
marimono del frio, mono barrigudo, mono rosillo (Spanish); L.
lagotricha: L. lagothricha, common woolly monkey, Humboldt's woolly
monkey, woolly monkey; Lagothriche de Humboldt, singe laineux (French);
macaco barrigudo, mono barrigudo, mono caparro, mono lanudo, mono lanudo
común (Spanish); grå ullapa, Humboldts ullapa (Swedish); L.
lugens: L. lagotricha lugens, Colombian woolly monkey; mono barrigudo
(Spanish); L. poeppigii; L. lagotricha poeppigii, Poeppig's woolly
monkey, red woolly monkey, silvery woolly monkey; macaco barrigudo, mono
The taxonomy of the genus Lagothrix is debated. Groves (2001; 2005)
recognizes two subspecies of L. cana: L. c. cana and L. c. tschudii. In
addition, Groves (2001; 2005) moved the Peruvian yellow-tailed woolly
monkey (Oreonax flavicauda) to its own genus Oreonax from Lagothrix, so
it is not included here as a member of the genus. Some authors disagree
with this taxonomic move (Rosenberger & Matthews 2008). Groves'
arrangement is followed here but due to presumable similarities in
ecology between the two genera, the reader is referred to the Oreonax
factsheet. Finally, there remains a persistent
disagreement about the proper spelling of the species L. lagotricha,
which is also spelled L. lagothricha (Fooden 1963; Defler 2003). Here
it will be spelled L. lagotricha, but this is not to imply that this
spelling is more correct.
Photo: Luiz Claudio Marigo
Woolly monkeys are large muscular monkeys with prehensile tails and
arms about as long as their legs (Ankel-Simons 2007; Napier & Napier
1967). The tail has a pad near its end on the distal side for grip and
is as long as, or longer than, the head and body combined (Fooden 1963;
Ankel-Simons 2007). They possess a pseudo-opposable thumb (Ramirez
1988). In general, woolly monkey species are distinguished from one
another by coloration and appearance (Fooden 1963). As a genus,
Lagothrix males have a head and body length of 49.8 cm (19.6 in) while
females measure 49.2 cm (19.4 in) (Fooden 1963; Rosenberger & Strier
In terms of body mass, woolly monkeys are among the largest New
World monkeys, the Atelines. While muriquis (Brachyteles sp.) are often
considered to be the largest of the New World monkeys, some evidence
indicates that woolly monkeys can weigh just as much (Peres 1994b).
However, it is important to note that woolly monkeys undergo significant
changes in body mass with the seasons (Peres 1993; 1994b). L.
lagotricha males average 7.28 kg (16.0 lb) while females average
7.02 kg (15.5 lb) (Smith & Jungers 1997). L. cana males
weigh on average 9.49 kg (20.9 lb) and one female weighed 7.65 kg (16.9
lb) (Peres 1994a). Some recorded averages may be on the low end of true
weights however, and heavier (over 10 kg (22.0 lb)) individuals are
known (Peres 1994b). Woolly monkeys exhibit sexual dimorphism by body
mass and males are heavier than females (Ford & Davis 1992).
As their name implies, the fur is very thick and woolly. Males and
females have the same coloration (Napier & Napier 1967). Generally,
woolly monkeys are pale gray or brown overall to black (Fooden 1963).
L. lagotricha is predominantly pale brown with a lighter head
and darker grey extremities (Fooden 1963; Groves 2001). The belly has a
black area down the middle of the ventrum (Groves 2001). L.
cana have more gray in their coloration, with a dark gray head and
brownish extremities and with some olive green in the torso (Fooden
1963; Groves 2001). The ventrum is black-gray with some dark red
(Groves 2001). L. c. tschudii are darker than L.
c. cana, and have black head, extremities and tail (Groves 2001).
Coloration in L. lugens is variable, but generally are gray or
silvery gray with a blackish ventrum and darker extremities (Fooden
1963; Groves 2001). Some specimens are more brownish-black and some are
a somewhat lighter gray (Groves 2001). L. poeppigii coloration
varies as well, but the species is typically reddish or reddish-brown,
with a gray tinge and with reddish or dark brown head and extremities
(Fooden 1963; Groves 2001).
Photo: Noga Shanee
Woolly monkeys use their prehensile tails extensively in locomotion.
In particular, the tail secures the animal while it is climbing
(Ankel-Simons 2007). At the Estación Biológica
Caparú in eastern Colombia, five types of locomotion are used by
L. lagotricha: quadrupedal walking and running, suspensory
movement, climbing, leaping and rarely, bipedalism (Defler 1999).
During travel, L. lagotricha use quadupedalism (41.8% of
bouts), suspensory movement (8.6%), climbing (38.8%) and leaping
(10.8%). During feeding, woolly monkeys use quadrupedalism (42.8% of
the time), suspensory movement (7.0%), climbing (44.2%), and leaping
(6.0%) (Defler 1999). Elsewhere, in northeastern Ecuador at the
Yasuní National Park, L. lagotricha move through
dropping and leaping (3.9%), bipedalism (0.2%), quadrupedalism (28.7%),
ascending or descending (14.4%), clambering (30.1%), bridging and
hoisting (10.2%), suspension (11.1%), and swaying (1.4%) (Cant et al.
2001). During suspensory movement, L. lagotricha use
brachiation (58.7%), forelimb swinging (11.7%), pronograde swinging
(20.2%), upside-down clambering (0.5%), upside-down quadrupedalism
(1.2%) and will swing from their tails (7.8%) (Cant et al. 2003). Wild
woolly monkeys are sometimes seen on the ground (Soini 1986).
In captivity, L. c. cana have lived over 29 years, L.
lagotricha have lived over 30 years, L. lugens have lived
30 years, and L. poeppigii have lived 24 years (Mooney &
Lee 1999; Weigl 2005). Individuals estimated at over 30 years old are
recorded in wild populations (L. lagotricha) (Nishimura 2003).
CURRENT RANGE MAPS (IUCN REDLIST):Lagothrix cana
| Lagothrix cana cana
| Lagothrix cana tschudii
| Lagothrix lagotricha
| Lagothrix lugens
| Lagothrix poeppigii
Woolly monkeys are found in Amazonian South America, inhabiting
Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru (Fooden 1963; Ramirez 1988;
Wallace & Painter 1999). According to Bodini &
Péres-Hernàndez (1987) it stands to reason that woolly
monkeys should be found in Venezuela, and Hernández-Camacho &
Cooper (1976) report L. lugens from Venezuela near the
Colombian border. The distribution of the genus extends from the Rio
Negro and the Rio Tapajós in Brazil west throughout the upper
Amazon basin (Defler 2004; Emmons 1997).
Among the individual species, distributions are generally not well
defined (Aquino & Encarnación 1994). L. lagotricha
are found in northwestern Brazil, southeastern Colombia, northeastern
Ecuador and northeastern Peru. They range north of the Amazon River
west of the Orinoco and Negro rivers, to the eastern slopes of the
Andes, and south as far as the Aguarico and Napo Rivers (Fooden 1963;
Aquino & Encarnación 1994). Within Colombia, they extend as
far north as the Guaviare River and meet the southern populations of
L. lugens roughly where piedmont forest meets lowland
rainforest in the region (Hernández-Camacho & Cooper 1976).
L. cana are the southeastern-most of the woolly monkey species.
They range from southwestern Brazil from their easternmost occurrence
at the Tapajós River, extending west to the Juruá River,
and into southeastern Peru (in the Ucayali, Pasco and Junín
Departments) from the Alto Purus River to Bolivia (Fooden 1963; Aquino
& Encarnación 1994; Iwanaga & Ferrari 2002). A
population of L. cana is recently reported from Bolivia, in the
Madidi National Park (Wallace & Painter 1999).
Photo: Luiz Claudio Marigo
L. poeppigii is found in western Brazil, eastern Ecuador
and in northeastern Peru (http://www.redlist.org; Fooden 1963). Specifically, they are found
south and east of the Amazon and Napo Rivers, east of the Andes, north
of the Marañón River and south of the
Marañón River, west to the Huallaga River, continuing
south to the Aguaytia and Pachitea Rivers (http://www.redlist.org; Aquino &
Encarnación 1994). L. lugens are found in Colombia and
are reported from Venezuela, near the Colombian border (http://www.redlist.org; Fooden 1963;
Hernández-Camacho & Cooper 1976). Within Colombia, the
species extends as far north as the Guaviare River with isolated
populations in the Córdoba Department and in the southeastern
Bolívar Department in the northwest of the country
(Hernández-Camacho & Cooper 1976; Defler 2004). L.
lugens extend to near the Venezuelan border east of the Cordillera
Oriental (Defler 2004). In the east, L. lugens meets the
distribution of L. lagotricha along the lower Guayabero River
(Hernández-Camacho & Cooper 1976).
Woolly monkeys inhabit a number of habitat types, including tropical
lowland rainforest, terra firme rainforest, old-levee forest, cloud
forest, low-ground forest, seasonally flooded forest, hilly forest,
terrace forest, transition forest, igapó forest, creekside
lowland forest and palm swamps (Kavanagh & Dresdale 1975; Soini
1986; Peres 1994a; Defler 1996a; Peres 1996; Bennett et al. 2001; Cant
et al. 2001; Stevenson 2006). They prefer primary forest (Soini 1986;
L. lugens is found up to 3000 meters (9842.5 ft) above sea
level (Defler 1996b).
At a study site at Tinigua National Park, Colombia, woolly monkeys
(L. lagotricha) use tropical lowland forests, including mature
forest (79%), open-degraded forest (8%), flooded forest (10%), and
secondary forest (4%) (Stevenson 2006). At this study site, rainfall is
very seasonal, with a pronounced dry season between December and March
and an average rainfall of 278.2 cm (109.5 in) during the rainy
remainder of the year (Stevenson 1998; Stevenson et al. 2000; Stevenson
2006). Elsewhere, along the upper Urucu River, in Brazil at a study
site of L. cana, rainfall averaged 302.8 cm (119.2 in) with a
dry season between July and September (Peres 1994a; 1996).
Woolly monkeys are mostly frugivorous over the course of the year
(Defler & Defler 1996; Iwanaga & Ferrari 2001; Di Fiore 2004;
Stevenson 2006). Generally, western populations of woolly monkeys spend
more time foraging for live prey than other populations (Di Fiore &
Rodman 2001). In Tinigua National Park, Colombia, L. lugens
ate ripe fruits (53%), unripe fruit and seeds (6%), flowers (2%),
arthropods (25%) and other foods (1%) (Stevenson 2006). Insects,
spiders, termites, vertebrates, and beehives are also consumed at this
locality (Stevenson 1992). At the Yasuní National Park, Ecuador,
overall yearly diet of L. poeppigii included fruit (76.7%),
flowers (3.5%), leaves (7.4%), other plants (2.4%), fungi (0.2%) and
animal prey (9.3%) (Di Fiore 2004). At this study site, over 200
species of plant are consumed, but 46 species make up over half of the
diet (Di Fiore 2004). In southeastern Colombia, L. lagotricha
eat fleshy fruits (78.9%), seeds (4.3%), leaves (11.4%), invertebrates
(4.9%), flowers (0.1%), tendrils (0.1%) and bark (0.3%) (Defler &
Defler 1996). Frogs were also caught and consumed (Defler & Defler
Photo: Noga Shanee
Along the Urucu River, Brazil, L. cana ate nearly
exclusively plant material (99.9%) of over 200 species, with very small
numbers of arthropods, including katydids and spiders (Peres 1994a).
At this site, plant foods consumed included fruits (80.7%), flowers and
nectar (3.1%), and leaves (16.2%) (Peres 1994a). While fruit is
annually extremely important in the diet, during the dry season, such
foods may fall to very small percentages of what is eaten, replaced by
foliage, seeds, and exudates (Peres 1994a). Flowers are also consumed
as an alternative to fruit in the dry season (Peres 1994a). Elsewhere,
in the state of Rondônia, Brazil, 91.5% of the L. cana
diet was fruit (Iwanaga & Ferrari 2001).
In southeastern Colombia, over 90% of the fruits eaten by L.
lagotricha are evolutionarily adapted for dispersal by fruit-eating
species (Defler & Defler 1996). This means that the plants rely on
their seeds being carried in the digestive tracts of consumers and
evacuated elsewhere. In fact, woolly monkeys are important and
high-quality seed dispersers (Stevenson 2000).
Averaged annually, L. poeppigii spend their days eating
(19.0%), foraging (17.2%), moving (34.5%), resting (23.25%), in social
activity (4.7%), and in other activities (1.4%) (Di Fiore & Rodman
2001). In eastern Colombia, L. lagotricha spend their days
resting (29.9%), moving (38.8%), foraging (25.8%), and in other
activities (5.5%) (Defler 1995). In southeastern Colombia, L.
lagotricha spent their days moving (26%), resting (35%), feeding
(35%) and in social interactions (3%) (Stevenson 2006). Seasonally,
moving and social interactions decrease during fruit shortage (September
to December) while resting increases during that time (Stevenson et al.
1994; Stevenson 2006). With seasonal food availability, the time spend
feeding does not change, although the foods do, with the species eating
more unripe fruits, leaves, and flowers during times of fruit shortage
Daily, resting peaks around the middle of the day (Defler 1995).
Recorded woolly monkey group home ranges include 1.08-over 4.0 km²
(0.42-over 1.42 mi²) (L. poeppigii), 1.69 km² (0.65 mi²)
(L. lugens), 2.0-11.0 km² (0.77-4.25 mi²) (L.
lagotricha), and over 10.21 km² (3.94 mi²) (L. cana)
(reviewed in Di Fiore 2003; Stevenson 2006). Home ranges can overlap
extensively, and exclusive areas are not defended from other groups
although specific resources can be on a temporary basis (Kavanagh &
Dresdale 1975; Stevenson et al. 1994; Di Fiore 2003). Average day
ranges are 540-1878 m (1771.7-6161.4 ft) (L. poeppigii), 1633 m
(5357.6 ft) (L. lugens) and 2280 (7480.3 ft) (L.
lagotricha) (review in Di Fiore 2003). In L. poeppigii,
during periods of fruit scarcity, day range does not increase (Di Fiore
Sleeping sites are found throughout the home range and many are used
(Stevenson 2006). These consist of several trees around 25-35 m (82.0
ft-114.8 ft) tall, near to one another (Defler 2004).
Woolly monkeys are large. Because of their size, they may only be
exposed to low levels of predation (Stevenson & Castellanos 2000).
Nevertheless, eagles are said to be possible predators of woolly monkeys
and smaller non-adult individuals do disappear from groups (Ramirez
1988; Defler 2004).
Due to their widespread occurrence, woolly monkeys can be found with
a number of other primate species. For example, at the Pacaya-Samiria
National Reserve in Peru, L. lagotricha is found along with
pygmy marmosets (Cebuella pygmaea),
saddle-back tamarins (Saguinus
fuscicollis), owl monkeys (Aotus nancymai),
squirrel monkeys (Saimiri
boliviensis), white-fronted capuchins (Cebus albifrons),
brown capuchins (Cebus apella),
saki monkeys (Pithecia hirsute), black spider monkeys
and red howler monkeys (Alouatta seniculus)
(Soini 1986). L. poeppigii are sometimes found feeding and travelling
with howler monkeys (Alouatta sp.) and travelling and foraging with
spider monkeys (Ateles sp.) and
squirrel monkeys (Saimiri sp.) (Marsh
Woolly monkeys (L. poeppigii) are also sometimes followed
by double-tooth kites (Harpagus bidentatus), a bird that feeds on
insects that are stirred up by the activities of woolly monkeys (Marsh
2004). Also, L. lagotricha feces are particularly important to
dung beetles of the family Scarabaeidae (Castellanos et al. 1999).
Content last modified: September 30, 2010
Written by Kurt Gron.
Cite this page as:
Gron KJ. 2010 September 30. Primate Factsheets: Woolly monkey (Lagothrix) Taxonomy, Morphology, & Ecology . <http://pin.primate.wisc.edu/factsheets/entry/woolly_monkey>. Accessed 2013 May 21.