Primate of the Week: Mantled howler monkey

Alouatta palliata



  • Suborder: Haplorrhini
  • Infraorder Simiformes
  • Family: Atelidae
  • Subfamily: Alouattinae


Mantled howler monkeys can be found in southern Mexico and from Honduras to Central America to Columbia and in Ecuador (Reid, 1997). They inhabit lowland and montane rainforest (Stoner, 1996).


Like other members of the Atelidae family, they are large and stocky. They have black fur and most individual have yellow to brown fur patches on there back (Reid, 1997; Glander, 1983). Their mantle is created by long hair at their flanks (Glander, 1983). They also have a prehensile tail. Prehensile tail use is a distinguishing characteristic of some New World monkeys, such as the Cebus family, and is an advantage for an arboreal lifestyle. A prehensile tail functions like a limb that allows the animal to suspend its full body weight by the tail within an arboreal setting (Garber and Rehg, 1999). Prehensile tails are also capable of grasping objects such as a tree branch (Rosenberger, 1983; Rosenberger and . Prehensile tails have developed at least twice within the infraorder of Platyrrhini (Rosenberg, 1983). Prehensile tails developed approximately, 55 million years ago within the Cebinae and Atelinae families and likely evolved for filling the ecological niches of the New World (Garber and Rehg, 1999). The Atelinae tail has mechanoreceptors that allow for these tactile sensations (Bezanson, 2012) located within the bare area of the distal part of its ventral surface (Garber and Rehg, 1999). The males have white scrotum and have longer bears when compared to the females (Reid, 1997). Adult females are slightly smaller then males weight 4 to 5 kg while males weigh 6 to 7 kg (Reid, 1997; Glander, 1983).


Mantled howler monkeys live in groups that range from ten to twenty members. These groups of made up of 1 to 3 adult males and 5 to 10 adult females (Reid, 1997). Mantled howler monkeys are polygynous. Females will reach sexual maturity at 36 months and will be 42 months by their first birth (Glander, 1980). Males reach sexual maturity at 42 months, however they likely will not reproduce until 6 years of age when they are able to gain social status. Mating occurs year round and female will often mate with multiple males (Glander 1980). Females will approach male and make rhythmic tongue movements, the males will response with rhythmic tongue movements and the female will turn around and lift her rump to him. The male will achieve erection and mount the female. The actual copulation lasts twenty to sixty seconds (Young, 1982). Mantled howler monkey pregnancy is approximately 6 months and has an interbirth interval of 22.5 months (Glander, 1980).


Mantled howler monkeys generally eat leaves but will also eat fruit and flowers (both of which vary seasonally) (Glander, 1981). Generally due to their low energy leaf diet (Bezanson, 2009), mantled howler monkeys have energy minimizing characteristics such as resting behavior and small day and home ranges (Di Flore et al. 2011).


Mantled howler monkeys spend of majority of their times foraging (Nagy and Milton, 1979).


Both sexes emigrate (Glander 1981). However females generally join groups very quickly males will be solitary for several years until a alpha male can challenged (Glander, 1992).


Howler monkeys are well known for the howling, which is used by males to vocal, communicate and space out the groups living within the same area. Calls will generally occur at dusk and dawn and includes woofs, grunts, barks and howls. They will also call when a disturbance is made (Reid, 1997).

Work Cited 

Bezanson M. 2009. Life history and locomotion in Cebus capucinus and Alouatta palliata. American Journal of Physical Anthropology 140:508–517.

Bezanson, M. 2012. The ontogeny of prehensile-tail use in Cebus capucinus and Alouatta palliata: Ontogeny of prehensile-tail use. American Journal of Primatology

Garber, P., & Rehg, J. 1999. The ecological role of the prehensile tail in white-faced capuchins (Cebus capucinus). American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 110(3), 325-339.

Glander, K. 1980. Reproduction and Population Growth in Free-Ranging Mantled Howler Monkeys. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 53: 25-36.

Glander, K. 1981. Feeding patterns in mantled howling monkeys. Pp. 231-257 in A Kamil, T Sargent, eds. Foraging Behavior. Ecological, ethological and psychological approaches. New York and London: Garland STPM Press.

Glander, K. 1983. -Alouatta palliata- (congo, howling monkey, howler monkey).. Pp. 448-449, illustr. in D Janzen, ed. Costa Rican Natural History. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Glander, K. 1992. Dispersal Patterns in Costa Rican Mantled Howling Monkeys. International Journal of Primatology, 13(4): 415-436.

Reid, F. 1997. A Field Guide to the Mammals of Central America and Southeast Mexico. New York: Oxford University Press, Inc..

Rosenberger, A.L. (1983). Tale of tails: parallelism and prehensibility. American Journal of American Physical Anthropology 60: 103-107.

Rosenberger, A.L. & Strier K.B. 1989. Adaptive radiation of the ateline primates. Journal of Human Evolution. 18:717–750.

Stoner, K. 1996. Habitat Selection and Seasonal Patterns of Activity and Foraging of Mantled Howler Monkeys (-Alouatta palliata) in Northeastern Costa Rica. International Journal of Primatology, 17: 1-30.

Young, O. 1982. Tree-rubbing Behavior of a Solitary Male Howler Monkey. Primates, 23(2): 303-306.



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