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New World Monkeys

The Saki Family

The sakis, bearded sakis, and uakaris belong to the subfamily Pitheciinae and all have long shaggy hair. These monkeys of the Amazon basin and farther north eat primarily fruit and seeds. They bear one offspring, probably taken care of by the mother. The two species of sakis (Pithecia) have nostrils that are set farther apart than those of any other New World monkey. They differ from the two species of bearded sakis in several ways. The tail of the saki is as long as its 16 in (40 cm) body length and is thick, bushy, somewhat baseball-bat shaped, and tapers to a pointed tip. The tail of the bearded saki is blunt at the tip. Sakis live in small family groups of only three or four individuals and prefer the lower reaches of the rain forest trees and may even venture onto the ground. The bearded saki stays wholly in the tree and prefers the upper layers, where a group of up to about 30 members stays in close touch. Sakis are known to eat birds and small mammals, something that the bearded sakis never do.

The male white-faced saki (P. pithecia) of the Guianas and northeastern Brazil has a stark white face set in a circular hood of long black hair, and a triangle of black fur from between the eyes to the nose and mouth. The female and young of the white-faced monkey do not have white faces, rather, they are dark brown or black with some whitish fur around the face. The adult female has a line of white fur running from the eyes and around the mouth and has a reddish tone to the chest and abdomen.

The monk, or hairy saki (P. monachus) of the upper Amazon is colored very much like the female whitefaced saki. The fur on its head curves forward as if forming a monk's hood that partially conceals the face.

Bearded sakis tend to look as if they have just come from a beauty salon. Their short, soft fur is very smooth, their full beards appear to be carefully trimmed, and poufs of longer fur above the eyes are smoothly bouffant. They have longer canine teeth than many monkeys, which they use to break up tough fruit to reach the seeds inside.

The endangered black-bearded, or red-backed, bearded saki (Chiropotes satanas) lives between the Orinoco and Amazon rivers and has bare red skin patches on its face. The white-nosed bearded saki (C. albinasus) lives primarily south of the Amazon.

Uakaris are slightly larger than sakis but, unlike all other New World monkeys, have a very small tail. These monkeys live strictly along river banks. The red uakari (Cacajao rubicundus) is particularly ugly, with a vivid, naked, red face, and a bald head which is naked back to behind its ears, where a rust-colored coat of very long, shaggy fur begins. The bald uakari, also called the white uakari (C. calvus), has a similar appearance but has yellowish or silvery fur. Some authorities regard C. rubicundus as a subspecies of C. Calvus. The black-headed uakari (C. melanocephalus) has black fur on its head, and its arms, hands, and feet are also black, while its legs and tail are red. The yellow-brown body is not as raggedly shaggy as in the other uakaris. This species appears to be thriving in western Brazil but may be endangered in the rest of its range.

The name uakari (also spelled ouakari) was given to these animals by the Tupi people of the Amazon basin. These monkeys live at all levels in the rain forest and rarely descend to the ground. They are better at leaping between branches than many other monkeys. The social groups may number up to 30 individuals. Female uakaris give birth to a single offspring every other year after a gestation of about 180 days.


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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Mysticism to Nicotinamide adenine dinucleotideNew World Monkeys - Capuchins, The Night Monkey, Titis, Squirrel Monkeys, The Saki Family, Howler Monkeys