WHO AND WHAT ARE NONHUMAN PRIMATES?
Primates are mammals that typically have large highly developed brains, forward-facing color vision, flexible hands and feet with opposable thumbs, and fingernails. Primates have slower developmental rates than other similarly sized mammals and reach maturity later, but have longer lifespans. With the exception of humans, who live throughout the globe, most primates live in tropical or subtropical regions.
The biological order “Primates” is divided into the following classifications:
- Great Apes: bonobos, chimpanzees, gorillas, humans, and orangutans
- Small Apes: gibbons
- Monkeys: baboons, capuchin monkeys, colobus monkeys, drills, geladas, guenons, howler monkeys, langurs, macaques, mandrills, mangabeys, marmosets, night monkeys, patas monkeys, proboscis monkeys, sakis, snub-nosed monkeys, spider monkeys, squirrel monkeys, tamarins, titis, uakaris, and woolly monkeys
- Prosimians: the oldest, most “primitive” order of primates, including galagos or bushbabies, lemurs, lorises, pottos, angwantibos, and tarsiers.
There are an estimated 704 species and subspecies of primates. 69% are threatened by extinction.
WHERE DO NONHUMAN PRIMATES LIVE?
Nonhuman primates live in regions of Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Most live in tropical climates along the equator.
- Great apes live in Africa and Asia
- Small apes (gibbons) live only in Asia
- Monkeys live naturally in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Introduced* populations live in Gibraltar, on a few Caribbean islands, and in parts of the United States. But these are not their natural homes
- Prosimians live in Africa and Asia
NEW WORLD AND OLD WORLD MONKEYS
What's the Difference?
NEW WORLD MONKEYS
- Found from southern Mexico to Central and South America, except in the highest mountains
- Are more primitive than Old World monkeys.
- Their brains are considered less complex than those of Old World monkeys
- Their thumbs, when present, are not opposable
- Their nostrils are further apart and tend to point outward
- Most have 36 teeth
- They have slender bodies and limbs with long narrow hands
- Most have a prehensile or partially prehensile tail
- Include marmosets, tamarins, titis, capuchins, spider monkeys, woolly monkeys, howler monkeys, squirrel monkeys, owl monkeys, the sakis, and the uakaris
- No nonhuman apes are endemic to the New World
- No prosimians are endemic to the New World
OLD WORLD MONKEYS
- Found in southern Asia, with a few species as far north as Japan and northern China, and in all of Africa except the most arid deserts
- Most, but not all, have opposable thumbs
- Their tails are are never prehensile
- Their nostrils are close together and tend to point downward
- Many species have cheek pouches to hold food, and many have thick pads on their buttocks
- They have 32 teeth
- Are more closely related to the apes and, therefore, humans than they are to the New World monkeys
- Include baboons, colobus monkeys, drills, geladas, grivets, guenons, kipunjis, langurs, leaf monkeys, macaques, malbroucks, mandrills, mangabeys, langurs, patas monkeys, proboscis monkeys, snub-nosed monkeys, surilis, swamp monkeys, talapoins, tantalus monkeys, and vervets
- All apes are found in Old World regions of the world
- Prosimians are also found in Old World regions
WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT YOUR PRIMATE COUSINS?
Visit Primate Species Profiles to find your favorites and learn more!
View short video clips about each species.
Learn how many primate species there are.
Learn about your favorites
You may be surprised by what you’ll find!