capuchin (kăpˈyōchĭn) [key], name for New World monkeys of the genus Cebus, widely distributed in tropical forests of Central and South America. Medium-sized monkeys, they have a body length of 14 to 24 in. (36–61 cm), with a tail up to 20 in. (50 cm) long, and weigh 2 to 4 lb (0.9–1.8 kg). The coat is black or brown, with lighter markings on the chest in some species. The flattened face is naked and pink. Members of some species have manes resembling the cowls of capuchin monks. The tail is partially prehensile, that is, it can be used for grasping but not with the dexterity displayed by most New World monkeys. It is usually carried with the end curled in a spiral, hence the alternate name, ringtail monkey. Capuchins travel in groups through the trees, making loud sounds, and rarely descend to the ground. They feed on leaves, fruit, insects, small animals, and bird eggs. They are easily trained and are well known from circuses and as the classic organ-grinder's monkey. In the wild they use simple tools, such as rocks, for such tasks as cracking the hard shells of fruits. They are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Primates, family Cebidae.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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