Types of Monkeys

According to the IUCN/SCC Primate Specialist group, seventy five new primate species have been documented since the year 2000. That statistic reveals the degree to which primate taxonomy changes over time.

Often the word monkey and primate get used interchangeably, however formally the term primate refers to an order of mammals that includes monkeys, great apes, lesser apes and lemurs.

The types of monkeys, (Primate order) that inhabit the fields and forests of Africa, Asia and Central and South America, often get split into two groups or suborders, based primarily on the physical characteristic of brain size to body size ratio.

  • Haplorrhini: the tarsiers, great apes and monkeys
  • Strepsirrhini: non-tarsier prosimians

Strepsirrhini consist of one hundred and twenty species in seven separate families. Most, not all, Strepsirrhini species are lemurs, and most, not all Strepsirrhini species are indigenous to Madagascar. Species from two Strepsirrhini families, Galagidae and Lorisida, inhabit Africa and Asia.

Lemur populations continue to come under extraordinary stress.According to a June 2014 press release by the IUCN

The IUCN Red List update confirms reports that 94% of lemurs are threatened with extinction. Of the 101 surviving lemur species, 22 are Critically Endangered, including the largest of the living lemurs, the Large-bodied Indri (Indri indri). A total of 48 are Endangered, such as the world's smallest primate, Madame Berthe's Mouse Lemur (Microcebus berthae), and 20 are Vunerable. This makes them one of the most threatened groups of vertebrates on Earth.

While Haplorrhini encompasses both new world and old world monkey species, it also includes other well known families, including Hominidae, the taxonomic home of Homo sapiens. The terms old world monkeys refers to the approximately one hundred and twenty five species of Africa and Asia, and the term new world monkeys refers to the approximately one hundred and thirty five species of Central and South America.

Together, the old world and new world monkeys account for approximately two-thirds of the global primate species.

Physical and behavioral differences between the old world and new world monkeys, already thoroughly documented, start by noting tail feature, with old world monkeys lacking prehensile tails and possessing opposable thumbs.

© 2010-2016 Patricia A. Michaels