Monkeys are non-hominoid simians, generally possessing tails and
consisting of about 260 known living species. Many monkey species
are tree-dwelling (arboreal), although there are species that live
primarily on the ground, such as baboons. Most species are also active
during the day (diurnal). Monkeys are generally considered to be
intelligent, particularly Old World monkeys.
There are two major types of monkey: New World monkeys (platyrrhines)
from South and Central America and
Old World monkeys
Old World monkeys (catarrhines of
the superfamily Cercopithecoidea) from Africa and Asia. Apes
(hominoids)—consisting of gibbons, orangutans, gorillas,
chimpanzees, and humans—are also catarrines but are classically
distinguished from monkeys. (Tailless monkeys may be
called "apes", incorrectly according to modern usage; thus the
Barbary macaque is sometimes called the "Barbary ape".)
Simians and tarsiers emerged within haplorrhines some 60 million years
ago. New World monkeys and catarrhine monkeys emerged within the
simians some 35 million years ago.
Old World monkeys
Old World monkeys and Hominoidea
emerged within the catarrhine monkeys some 25 million years ago.
Extinct basal simians such as
million years ago] are also considered monkeys by primatologists.
Lemurs, lorises, and galagos are not monkeys; instead they are
strepsirrhine primates. Like monkeys, tarsiers are haplorhine
primates; however, they are also not monkeys.
Apes emerged within the catarrhines with the
Old World monkeys
Old World monkeys as a
sister group, so cladistically they are monkeys as well. However,
traditionally apes are not considered monkeys, rendering this grouping
paraphyletic. The smallest clade that includes all monkeys and hence
their ape offshoot are the simians.
1 Historical and modern terminology
3.1 Cladogram with extinct families
5 Relationship with humans
5.1 As service animals for the disabled
5.2 In experiments
5.2.1 In space
5.3 As food
5.5 Religion and worship
6 See also
8.1 Literature cited
9 External links
Historical and modern terminology
According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the word "monkey" may
originate in a German version of the
Reynard the Fox fable, published
circa 1580. In this version of the fable, a character named Moneke is
the son of Martin the Ape. In English, no very clear distinction
was originally made between "ape" and "monkey"; thus the 1910
Encyclopædia Britannica entry for "ape" notes that it is either a
synonym for "monkey" or is used to mean a tailless humanlike
primate. Colloquially, the terms "monkey" and "ape" are widely used
interchangeably. Also, a few monkey species have the word "ape" in
their common name, such as the Barbary ape.
Later in the first half of the 20th century, the idea developed that
there were trends in primate evolution and that the living members of
the order could be arranged in a series, leading through "monkeys" and
"apes" to humans. Monkeys thus constituted a "grade" on the path
to humans and were distinguished from "apes".
Scientific classifications are now more often based on monophyletic
groups, that is groups consisting of all the descendants of a common
ancestor. The New World monkeys and the
Old World monkeys
Old World monkeys are each
monophyletic groups, but their combination is not, since it excludes
hominoids (apes and humans). Thus the term "monkey" no longer refers
to a recognized scientific taxon. The smallest accepted taxon which
contains all the monkeys is the infraorder Simiiformes, or simians.
However this also contains the hominoids (apes and humans), so that
monkeys are, in terms of currently recognized taxa, non-hominoid
simians. Colloquially and pop-culturally, the term is ambiguous and
sometimes monkey includes non-human hominoids. In addition,
frequent arguments are made for a monophyletic usage of the word
"monkey" from the perspective that usage should reflect
A group of monkeys may be commonly referred to as a tribe or a
Monkeys range in size from the pygmy marmoset, which can be as small
as 117 millimetres (4.6 in) with a 172-millimetre (6.8 in)
tail and just over 100 grams (3.5 oz) in weight, to the male
mandrill, almost 1 metre (3.3 ft) long and weighing up to 36
kilograms (79 lb). Some are arboreal (living in trees) while
others live on the savanna; diets differ among the various species but
may contain any of the following: fruit, leaves, seeds, nuts, flowers,
eggs and small animals (including insects and spiders).
Some characteristics are shared among the groups; most New World
monkeys have prehensile tails while
Old World monkeys
Old World monkeys have
non-prehensile tails or no visible tail at all.
Old World monkeys
Old World monkeys have
trichromatic color vision like that of humans, while New World monkeys
may be trichromatic, dichromatic, or—as in the owl monkeys and
greater galagos—monochromatic. Although both the New and Old World
monkeys, like the apes, have forward-facing eyes, the faces of Old
World and New World monkeys look very different, though again, each
group shares some features such as the types of noses, cheeks and
The following list shows where the various monkey families (bolded)
are placed in the classification of living (extant) primates.
Suborder Strepsirrhini: lemurs, lorises, and galagos
Suborder Haplorhini: tarsiers, monkeys, and apes
Family Tarsiidae: tarsiers
Infraorder Simiiformes: simians
Parvorder Platyrrhini: New World monkeys
Family Callitrichidae: marmosets and tamarins (42 species)
Family Cebidae: capuchins and squirrel monkeys (14 species)
Family Aotidae: night monkeys (11 species)
Family Pitheciidae: titis, sakis, and uakaris (41 species)
Family Atelidae: howler, spider, and woolly monkeys (24 species)
Old World monkeys
Old World monkeys (135 species)
Superfamily Hominoidea: apes
Family Hylobatidae: gibbons ("lesser apes") (17 species)
Family Hominidae: great apes (including humans, gorillas, chimpanzees,
and orangutans) (7 species)
Cladogram with extinct families
Below is a cladogram with some extinct monkey families.
Generally, extinct non-hominoid simians, including early Catarrhines
are discussed as monkeys as well as simians or anthropoidea,
which cladistically means that
Hominoidea are monkeys as well,
restoring monkeys as a single grouping. It is indicated approximately
how many million years ago (Mya) the clades diverged into newer
clades. It is thought the New World monkeys started as
drifted "Old World monkey" group from the old world (probably Aftrica)
to the new world (South America).
Eosimiidae s.s. (†37 Mya)
Proteopithecus sylviae (†34)
Platyrrhini (New World Monkeys)
Proconsulidae (†18 Mya)
Crown Hominoidea (22)
Cercopithecoidea (Old World Monkeys)
(Monkeys, Anthropoidea, 47)
Various species of monkey
Bonnet macaque (Macaca radiata)
Goeldi's marmoset (Callimico goeldii)
Common squirrel monkey
Common squirrel monkey (Saimiri sciureus)
Crab-eating macaque (Macaca fascicularis)
Japanese macaque (Macaca fuscata)
Relationship with humans
The many species of monkey have varied relationships with humans. Some
are kept as pets, others used as model organisms in laboratories or in
space missions. They may be killed in monkey drives (when they
threaten agriculture) or used as service animals for the disabled.
In some areas, some species of monkey are considered agricultural
pests, and can cause extensive damage to commercial and subsistence
crops. This can have important implications for the conservation
of endangered species, which may be subject to persecution. In some
instances farmers' perceptions of the damage may exceed the actual
damage. Monkeys that have become habituated to human presence in
tourist locations may also be considered pests, attacking
In religion and popular culture, monkeys are a symbol of playfulness,
mischief and fun.
As service animals for the disabled
Some organizations train capuchin monkeys as service animals to assist
quadriplegics and other people with severe spinal cord injuries or
mobility impairments. After being socialized in a human home as
infants, the monkeys undergo extensive training before being placed
with a disabled person. Around the house, the monkeys assist with
feeding, fetching, manipulating objects, and personal care.
Main article: Animal testing on non-human primates
The most common monkey species found in animal research are the
grivet, the rhesus macaque, and the crab-eating macaque, which are
either wild-caught or purpose-bred. They are used primarily
because of their relative ease of handling, their fast reproductive
cycle (compared to apes) and their psychological and physical
similarity to humans. Worldwide, it is thought that between 100,000
and 200,000 non-human primates are used in research each year,
64.7% of which are Old World monkeys, and 5.5% New World monkeys.
This number makes a very small fraction of all animals used in
research. Between 1994 and 2004 the United States has used an
average of 54,000 non-human primates, while around 10,000 non-human
primates were used in the
European Union in 2002.
Sam, a rhesus macaque, was flown to a height of 55 miles (89 km)
NASA in 1959
Main article: Monkeys and apes in space
A number of countries have used monkeys as part of their space
exploration programmes, including the United States and France. The
first monkey in space was Albert II, who flew in the US-launched V-2
rocket on June 14, 1949.
Monkey brains are eaten as a delicacy in parts of South Asia, Africa
and China. In traditional Islamic dietary laws, the eating of
monkeys is forbidden. However, monkeys are sometimes eaten in parts of
Africa, where they can be sold as "bushmeat".
Illustration of Indian monkeys known as bandar from the illuminated
Baburnama (Memoirs of Babur)
Sun Wukong (the "
Monkey King"), a character who figures prominently in
Chinese mythology, is the protagonist in the classic comic Chinese
novel Journey to the West.
Monkeys are prevalent in numerous books, television programs, and
movies. The television series
Monkey and the literary characters
Monsieur Eek and
Curious George are all examples.
Informally, the term "monkey" is often used more broadly than in
scientific use and may be used to refer to apes, particularly
chimpanzees, gibbons, and gorillas. Author
Terry Pratchett alludes to
this difference in usage in his
Discworld novels, in which the
Librarian of the
Unseen University is an orangutan who gets very
violent if referred to as a monkey. Another example is the use of
Simians in Chinese poetry.
The winged monkeys are prominent characters in The Wizard of Oz.
Religion and worship
Simian statue at a Buddhist shrine in Tokyo, Japan
A statue of Hanuman
Hanuman, a prominent divine entity in Hinduism, is a human-like monkey
god who is believed to bestow courage, strength and longevity to the
person who thinks about him or the god Rama.
In Buddhism, the monkey is an early incarnation of Buddha but may also
represent trickery and ugliness. The Chinese Buddhist "mind monkey"
metaphor refers to the unsettled, restless state of human mind. Monkey
is also one of the Three Senseless Creatures, symbolizing greed, with
the tiger representing anger and the deer lovesickness.
The Sanzaru, or three wise monkeys, are revered in Japanese folklore;
together they embody the proverbial principle to "see no evil, hear no
evil, speak no evil".
The Moche people of ancient Peru worshipped nature. They placed
emphasis on animals and often depicted monkeys in their art.
Tzeltal people of Mexico worshipped monkeys as incarnations of
their dead ancestors.
Monkey (猴) is the ninth in the twelve-year cycle of animals
which appear in the
Chinese zodiac related to the Chinese calendar.
The next time that the monkey will appear as the zodiac sign will be
in the year 2028.
New World monkey
New World monkey species
Old World monkey
Old World monkey species
List of individual monkeys
List of fictional primates
List of primates by population
Carl Linnaeus defined the genus Simia in the 10th edition of
Systema Naturae, it included all non-human monkeys and apes
(simians). Although "monkey" was never a taxonomic name, and is
instead a vernacular name for a paraphyletic group, its members fall
under the infraorder Simiiformes.
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Wikiquote has quotations related to: monkeys
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Monkey.
"The Impossible Housing and Handling Conditions of Monkeys in Research
Laboratories", by Viktor Reinhardt, International
League, August 2001
The Problem with Pet Monkeys: Reasons Monkeys Do Not Make Good Pets,
an article by veterinarian Lianne McLeod on About.com
Monkey helpers for the disabled, a U.S. national
non-profit organization based in Boston Massachusetts that places
specially trained capuchin monkeys with people who are paralyzed or
who live with other severe mobility impairments
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