world of primates

The World of Primates

Image Credit: Flickr User Ryan Somma, via CC

We all use words such as monkey and apes for primates interchangeably, but do they really mean the same. Let us find out.

Humans, apes, monkeys and lemurs are all primates. All except humans live in the thicket of forest and trees. Swinging from tree to tree with the help of hands feet and tail, they prefer to live in the warm regions of the world.

A gorilla is not a monkey, and a lemur is not an ape.

How are apes different from humans and monkeys? Read it here.

Image Credit: Flickr User Jo Marshall, via CC
Image Credit: Flickr User vijaykhaitan, via CC

Lemurs are really tiny primates. Yes! You will be surprised, but some are as tiny as a mouse (the lesser mouse lemur that is 5 inches tall) where as the biggest is as big as a house cat. Most lemurs are found in Madagascar, off the coast of East Africa. They are generally active in the night, so they are nocturnal animals. They have many interesting uses of their soft bushy tail. Scare off other animals, signal to their lemur friends or use it as a flag to wave the scent around as they have a gland in their bottoms and forearms. Eww! What a unique way to fight an opponent! Wave your smelly tail at them. Lemurs are often confused with Langurs. Well they are very different. For starters Langurs are small monkeys. They are only found in south east Asia and eat leaves.

Long tail Macaque - Old world monkey
Image Credit: Flickr User HooLengSiong, via CC

Monkeys are extremely intelligent animals. They are divided into two groups – Old world monkeys living in Africa have thinner noses and new world monkeys living in South and Central America have flat noses. The old world monkeys do not have a gripping tail where as the new world monkeys have a prehensile tail to help them grip on the tree and the branches. There are around 260 species of monkeys around and the tiniest one is called Pygmy Marmoset as it does not grow more than six inches.

Ornate Spider Monkey - New World monkey
Image Credit: Flickr User 5of7, via CC

Monkeys are very similar to us. Well they might not facebook all the time, but they are social creatures and spend a lot of time grooming each other by picking out each other’s hair and skin to remove bugs. Their groups have a special name “troops”.

Humans did evolve from apes and the apes evolved from monkeys. In fact, old fossils indicate that apes have evolved from the old monkeys, and it happened around 20 million years ago.

How similar yet how different? Humans share 98.6% of genes with the good old chimpanzee! Now don’t take offence if someone calls you a chimp!



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