If there is one animal closest to human beings in terms of behavior and personality, it’s definitely the monkey. As a matter of fact, monkeys are the closest relatives of humans.
Whether it’s their lifestyle or personality characteristics, they relate to each other in multiple ways.
In this article, you will get to know about the history of monkeys, their classification, their natural diet, and whether you can keep a monkey as a pet or not!
Natural History of Monkeys
The world monkeys are ancient animals who, some thirty million years ago, migrated to South America all the way from West Central Africa. Though this is true for most monkeys, we can’t really say which were the first to get there!
As a matter of fact, various research results have shown that it’s either the Platyrrhines or the Parapithecids old world monkeys that reached here the earliest.
These vertebrate animals possess various qualities and characteristics that make them significant among mammals. They are independent, cordial, and have great wisdom!
You would be amazed to know that though most of the monkeys appear similar to you, there are actually more than two hundred species of primates known to taxonomists. The two groups that classify them all are old-world monkeys and new-world monkeys.
The group of old-world monkeys is a little smaller compared to that of the new-world monkeys. Where the former is classified into one further group named Cercopitheciar, the latter includes five other families: Cebidae, Callitrichidae, Aotidae, Atelidae, and Pitheciidae.
Despite sharing a common ancestor, monkeys, humans, chimpanzees, and great apes are part of a separate group of primates that diverged from monkeys millions of years ago.
Old World Monkey Versus New World Monkey
Approximately 35 million years ago, the New World monkey evolved into the Simians; around 25 million years ago, the Old World monkey evolved into the Catarrhine monkey.
The nose is one physical feature that has helped taxonomists differentiate between the two. Where the old-world monkeys have downward noses, the new-world monkeys have somewhat flat noses.
Well, unlike humans, monkeys can’t go under the knife to get their nose ‘corrected,’ which really gives some authenticity and reliability to this classification made on the physical features!!
Another physical feature that makes these two kinds of monkeys distinct from each other is the cheek pouch. Where the newest world monkeys have them pretty prominent, the older world ones don’t possess them!
You would be amazed to know the reason they have cheek pouches on their mouths is that they use their cheeks to store food. Hence, they expand with time and become quite a prominent physical feature.
The new-world monkeys also consist of the noisest monkey of them all, the howler monkeys, and the super adventurous spider monkeys. Amongst the new world monkeys, the wisest ones are the Capuchin monkeys, while Colobus monkeys have a laid-back lifestyle and are the real couch potatoes of the monkeys!
Comparatively, the Vervet monkeys, mostly found in Central and South America, are a bit more aggressive amongst the old-world monkeys.
These are the largest group of primates and have varied eating habits. Nonetheless, the world monkeys are essentially omnivores, which means they eat both flesh and greens!
For these omnivorous non-human primates, the most commonly available and devoured meals are the lizards, insects, and birds’ eggs!
But what’s famous is that monkeys love devouring BANANAS! Well, though that’s true, the monkeys’ diet quintessentially depends on where they live and their regular lifestyle.
Also, this diet changes with the change of season as well. Fruit, when it’s fresh and ripe, is loved by the most common monkey species all across the globe. Males and females residing in tropical areas are Rainforest monkeys and have great exposure to fruits and plants of varied types.
Monkey Habitat and Behavior
Monkeys love to move around; hence their living space is never static! As a matter of fact, young monkeys love changing their location quite often. The common habitats of these animals are terrestrial and arboreal.
Those who love living close to nature, in the trees, prefer arboreal habitats, while those who prefer making homes on the ground either opt for woodlands or mountains and have the terrestrial habitat.
Monkeys are capable of making quick transitions. So it’s quite rare for them to stay in one place for way too long!
As many as seven species of these non-human primates reside in Central America. You will also find five of them in Northern Argentina, while Central and South America is also a preferred home for most of them!
Just as we mentioned before, monkeys are quite similar to humans! This is true for their behavior as well. Many species of monkeys are capable of forming some really strong friendships, which even last a lifetime. Also, as monkeys live close to each other, they may end up having some rivalries as well.
Monkeys are really smart! At the same time, some of them are pretty naughty as well.
Some of them are exactly like humans in their sleep patterns. If you, too, stay awake till late in the night and tend to sleep through the day, you would be amazed to know that night monkeys do the same! They are a true example of nocturnal monkeys, mostly referred to as Owl monkeys.
Monkey Swimming Abilities
Have you ever, while making butterfly moves during swimming, had a random thought, ‘Hey, can monkeys actually swim’?
Well, yes! They surely can.
Actually, small marmosets may be able to do this better than you, thanks to their webbed fingers and toes, which help them stroke the water efficiently. Compared to other primates, they are pretty good under the water. This is especially true for the Rhesus Macaques.
However, having said that, many monkeys can’t swim, as they have never had exposure to water. Also, baby monkeys are not capable of managing dense waves of water and hence can’t fight for their survival.
What Is the Difference Between a Chimpanzee and a Monkey?
Though Chimpanzees are usually considered monkeys by a lot of people, that’s actually not true. Although many monkey species are massive in their appearance, and a few individuals may actually look like Chimpanzees, there is still a stark difference between the two.
The tail is the main distinction between a chimpanzee and a monkey. Where a monkey can be identified by the presence of a tail at its back, the chimpanzees don’t possess it!
Spiders and Capuchins actually possess prehensile tails, which have gripping and grasping abilities. The monkey group, especially those residing in Central and South America, hold such tails. Using these prehensile tails, the world monkeys are able to navigate through dense trees and get hold of the fruits!
Comparatively, apes don’t possess tails, and probably, it was the genetic mutation that led to them losing this feature as they progressed through history.
Monkeys and chimpanzees move in very different manners, which is how you distinguish between the two. Apes move more like humans. They use their two feet to move around while occasionally using their arms to maneuver around and swing them.
Contrary to that, monkeys have prehensile tails, using which they hold the tree trunks and branches and move around. Those who don’t possess prehensile tails use them for weight distribution.
While you will see monkeys literally everywhere around the world, bigger apes reside in some specific countries and areas. For example, the ape population prefers to live in Africa and countries in Southeast Asia.
Despite all these differences, monkeys and apes are really similar when it comes to behavior, cognitive abilities, and fighting. They both are intelligent animals, showcasing great problem-solving skills.
What Is the Rarest Monkey?
Though you will be able to find monkeys almost everywhere, a lot of them have gone extinct, while some of them are on the verge of disappearing!
Hainan Gibbon, the orange-furred monkey, is the rarest of them. Residing in Southeast China, deforestation and poaching have led to them reaching the point of extinction.
Amongst other monkeys that have become uncommon to sight now, the Northern Brown Howler is a prominent one. Residing in Brazil and belonging to the family of Atelidae, these small animals are critically endangered.
Threats to Survival of Monkey Species
As many as half of these species are on the verge of extinction. The world is rapidly losing their presence, which is surely a huge cause of concern and consideration. If not critically endangered at the moment, animal research has revealed that most of these world monkeys are either vulnerable or endangered.
Habitat destruction and illegal wildlife trade are the two biggest threats to the survival of monkeys. Pet trade has become so common globally that it has caused squirrel monkeys residing in Central and South America to reach the point of extermination.
Conservation International, an organization keen on collecting data regarding animal extinction, has revealed that Woolly monkeys are speedily moving from the vulnerable stage to the extinction stage. If proper measures are not taken to preserve them, they will soon enter the list of endangered species of primates.
Strong primate conservation strategies are a need of the time. However, if proper steps are not taken immediately, just like many old-world monkeys, the new-world monkeys will also become a rare sight to the eyes!
Can You Keep a Monkey as a Pet?
Though they appear cute and endearing, monkeys fall in the category of wild animals, and you can’t trust them fully! These animals are unpredictable. No matter how much you train them or how much effort you put into taming them, they may sometimes become aggressive, scratching or biting you vigorously.
As they have the urge to showcase their dominance even on human owners at times, keeping them as pets can get tough, and they may end up getting really dangerous for humans close to them.
Having said that, a lot of people still keep monkeys as pets. Macaques are pretty small in appearance; hence they are a popular choice for pets amongst those who love to keep a variety of animals in their possession and tame them. Spider monkeys and Tamarins are also chosen as pets by human owners.
Different governments have different legal considerations regarding keeping monkeys as pets. While some states let their citizens keep primates as pets, others have rendered this act illegal!
Monkeys are also used as service animals to aid those adults with spinal injuries and mobility problems. These trained service animals, mostly Capuchins, provide a helping hand to those who need them.
Monkeys belong to the wildlife and need social interaction with similar creatures for natural survival. They may feel trapped if someone tries to tame them, leading them to fight and showcasing dangerous reactions.
Most new-world monkeys, the newest form of primates, are quite distinct from old-world monkeys in terms of their physical characteristics. They are also well recognizable when compared to the apes.
They may be cute, adorable, and hilarious at times, but they are still wild animals. Therefore, keeping them as pets can become seriously problematic as well as dangerous in some cases.
Hope this article gave you an insight into these amazing species!