Monkeys: What You Should Know

Monkeys are mammals and belong to the primate order. This word comes from the Latin word “primus” and means “the first”. Monkeys are the closest animal relatives of humans. One of the characteristics of this order is a more highly developed brain. Externally, too, the apes are most similar to humans.

Monkeys are smart and sociable animals. They feed mostly on plants, but sometimes they also add insects. Some monkeys can walk on two legs, like a human. Others always walk on all fours.

When we talk about monkeys today, we often mean a term from colloquial language or from our everyday language. For example, we know the gorillas, mostly from the zoo. Then we call all animals that are so similar monkeys. In the science of biology, however, it is much more complicated.

How are primates classified?

The primates form an order in the animal kingdom. They can be divided into two suborders: the wet-nosed primates and the dry-nosed primates. The wet-nosed primates include, for example, the lemurs from Madagascar. The dry-nosed primates can be divided into Old World monkeys and New World monkeys. This has to do with the discoveries: the Old World monkeys are found in Africa and Asia, the New World monkeys in America, which was only discovered later.

The Old World monkeys are also called narrow-nosed monkeys. They include the anthropoids, i.e. the apes and gibbons, the monkeys, the baboons, and some more. Specialists can recognize them on the inside of the nose, on the nostrils, on the inside of the ears, and on the molars.

The New World monkeys tend to be smaller than the Old World monkeys. The marmoset weighs just 100 grams, as much as a bar of chocolate. Some New World monkeys have a tail they can use to grip branches. New World monkeys include lion tamarins, capuchin monkeys, squirrel monkeys, spider monkeys, woolly monkeys, and many others.

What are great apes?

The great apes form a family of Old World monkeys in the animal kingdom. In science, they are called the “hominids”. These can be divided into four genera: the gorillas, the chimpanzees, the orangutans, and the homo. The Latin name “Homo” has nothing to do with homosexuality.

So the homo are a genus. Humans evolved from them. There are different types of them. The Latin names all start with “Homo” and then add another word so that they can be distinguished. A few examples: “Homo sapiens” is “the knowing person”, that is all people today, regardless of the color of their skin. The “Homo neanderthalensis” is the Neanderthal, the “Homo heidelbergensis” is the Heidelberg man, and so on. Except for Homo sapiens, all are extinct. The extinct species are called “prehistoric people”.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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