Is there a difference between monkeys and apes?
Can you tell the difference between an ape and a monkey? Many people call all primates monkeys, when in fact apes and monkeys are two kinds of animals under the classification of primate. They may look similar, but when you start to learn more about them, it becomes apparent there are many differences between monkeys and apes. Which animals are monkeys, and which are apes?
Though ape and monkey are often used interchangeably in the English language, they are not the same from a scientific point of view.
Apes and monkeys are primates that have evolved different physical and mental characteristics throughout time to respond to different needs and environments. For example, most monkeys have an easily visible tail, but no apes do, and while monkeys are physically built for a life in the trees, apes tend to be built for a life lived in the trees and on the ground.
While apes and monkeys are both primates, and are part of the same primate suborder, there are lots of differences between them. There are also lots of other sorts of primates. The distinction between different primate groups is based on physical characteristics and evolutionary ancestry.
The order of primates is characterized by animals with forward-facing eyes and highly flexible arms, legs and fingers. This body structure evolved as an adaptation for life in the trees: Primates have flexible limbs and grasping hands so they can move from branch to branch. The forward-facing eyes are also an adaptation for life in this environment: They give primates excellent depth perception, allowing them to accurately judge the distance between trees.
The 235 modern primate species are divided up into two suborders -- the prosimians and the anthropoids. The prosimians, made up of lemurs and similar animals, are the more primitive group. They exhibit lower intelligence and they more closely resemble other mammal groups (they typically have whiskers and extended snouts, for example). The prosimians split off from the evolutionary line leading to humans relatively early. Anthropoids, commonly called the "higher primates," comprise the rest of the species in the primate order. Anthropoids vary considerably in size, geographical range and behavior, but they all have flat faces, small ears and relatively large, complex brains.
Within the suborder of anthropoids, primates are grouped into monkeys, apes and hominids. The easiest way to distinguish monkeys from the other anthropoids is to look for a tail. Most monkey species have tails, but no apes or hominids do. Monkeys are much more like other mammals than apes and humans are. For example, most monkeys cannot swing from branch to branch, as apes and humans can, because their shoulder bones have a different structure. Instead, monkeys run along the tops of branches. Their skeletal structure is similar to a cat, dog or other four-footed animal, and they move in the same sort of way. On the evolutionary line leading to humans, monkeys split off long before apes did.
Differences and SimilaritiesProsimian
Not a monkey OR an ape: There is one other kind of primate that people may not be aware of. Prosimians are the most primitive of the primates - sometimes they are referred to as "pre-monkeys". There name means "before monkeys".
Prosimians include animals like lemurs, lorises, and tarsiers. They are the ancestors to monkeys, and apes and live a very different lifestyle.
Nocturnal and sensitive: In contrast to diurnal (daytime) monkeys and apes, prosimians are mostly nocturnal... they have large eyes with sensitive nocturnal vision, complex tactile hairs, large and independently movable ears and a strong sense of smell.
Specialized and tropical; They are usually very specialized to their environment and have a variety of social systems. Like monkeys and apes though, they do have a developed hand with good control. They are restricted to living only in tropical woodlands...
Prosimians are restricted to tropical woodlands. Many surviving species have become nocturnal, probably because of competition from diurnal monkeys and rodents. Most prosimians are endangered, some critically so.
A well developed sense of smell, and a more prominent snout.
Partial binocular vision (using two eyes together, as apes and monkeys do). Often nocturnal vision.
Some claws and developed manual dexterity.
Immobilized upper lips.
A different dental formula - 2:1:3:3
Prosimians only live in the '
Old World'. (area that don't include North and South America): Lemurs live only
on the island of Madagascar, Tarsiers live on the islands of the Philippines,
Borneo, Celebes Islands, and Sumatra, and Lorises live in areas of Africa and
South/Southeast Asia .
- Lar gibbon
- White-headed capuchin
- Ring-tailed lemur
- Common chimpanzee
- Patas monkey
- Vervet monkey