Photo: Male black howler monkey in a tree

The highly vocal howler monkey is the largest of the New World monkeys.

Photograph by Joel Sartore

Map

Map: Howler monkey range

Howler Monkey Range

Audio

Fast Facts

Type:
Mammal
Diet:
Omnivore
Average life span in the wild:
15 to 20 years
Size:
Head and body, 22 to 36 in (55.8 to 91.4 cm); Tail, 23 to 36 in (58.4 to 91.4 cm)
Weight:
15 to 22 lbs (7 to 10 kg)
Group name:
Troop
Size relative to a 6-ft (2-m) man:
Illustration: Howler monkey compared with adult man

Howlers are New World monkeys found in tropical Central and South America. They are aptly named for their cacophonous cries. When a number of howlers let loose their lungs in concert, often at dawn or dusk, the din can be heard up to three miles (five kilometers) away. Male monkeys have large throats and specialized, shell-like vocal chambers that help to turn up the volume on their distinctive call. The noise sends a clear message to other monkeys: This territory is already occupied by a troop.

These vocal primates are the biggest of all the New World monkeys. Unlike Old World monkeys, howlers and other New World species have wide, side-opening nostrils and no pads on their rumps. Howlers also boast a prehensile tail. They can use this tail as an extra arm to grip or even hang from branches—no Old World monkeys have such a tail. A gripping tail is particularly helpful to howler monkeys because they rarely descend to the ground. They prefer to stay aloft, munching on the leaves that make up most of their diet.

Howler monkeys have beards and long, thick hair which may be black, brown, or red. The red howler species is the most common, but it is often targeted by hunters eager for bushmeat. Other species of howler monkey may be critically endangered over sections of their ranges.

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