The squirrel monkeys are the New World monkeys of the genus Saimiri. They are the only genus in the subfamily Saimirinae. The name of the genus Saimiri is of Tupi origin (sai-mirim or gai-mbirin < sai 'monkey' and mirim 'small'), and was also used as an English name by early researchers.
Squirrel monkeys live in the tropical forests of Central and South America in the canopy layer. Most species have parapatric or allopatric ranges in the Amazon, while S. oerstedii is found disjunctly in Costa Rica and Panama.
The common squirrel monkey is captured for the pet trade and for medical research but it is not threatened. Two squirrel monkey species are threatened: the Central American squirrel monkey and the black squirrel monkey are listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN.
A monkey is a primate of the Haplorrhini suborder and simian infraorder, either an Old World monkey or a New World monkey, but excluding apes and humans. There are about 260 known living species of monkey. Many are arboreal, although there are species that live primarily on the ground, such as baboons. Monkeys are generally considered to be intelligent. Unlike apes, monkeys usually have tails. Tailless monkeys may be called "apes", incorrectly according to modern usage; thus the tailless Barbary macaque is called the "Barbary ape".
The New World monkeys (superfamily Ceboidea) are classified within the parvorder of Platyrrhini, whereas the Old World monkeys (superfamily Cercopithecoidea) form part of the parvorder Catarrhini, which also includes the hominoids (apes, including humans). Thus, as Old World monkeys are more closely related to hominoids than they are to New World monkeys, the monkeys are not a unitary (monophyletic) group.