common idea of an animal of the "higher primates" (the simians excluding apes)

Monkeys are tree-dwelling (arboreal) simians. They are in the primate order. Monkeys are intelligent, social animals. Monkeys have a tail, even if it is a short one.[2]

Temporal range: Late Eocene–Present
alt=Bonnet macaque Macaca radiata Mangaon, Maharashtra, India
Bonnet macaque Macaca radiata

Mangaon, Maharashtra, India

Scientific classificationEdit this classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Primates
Suborder: Haplorhini
Infraorder: Simiiformes
Groups included
Cladistically included but traditionally excluded taxa

The word "monkey" is a common-language term. It includes two rather different groups of primates. The big distinction is between Old World monkeys and New World monkeys. Some examples of monkeys are macaques, baboons, guenons and marmosets.

Both these groups are in the infraorder Simiiformes. That infraorder also includes the great apes and humans.[4]

The simians (monkeys) are a sister group to the tarsiers – the two members in the suborder Haplorhini diverged some 60 million years ago. New World monkeys and catarrhine monkeys emerged within the simians roughly 35 million years ago. Old World monkeys and apes emerged within the catarrhine monkeys about 25 million years ago.


Some monkeys live almost entirely in trees. Others live partly on the ground. Monkeys are mainly vegetarian, with a strong preference for fruit. However, they may eat a wide range of other food, including insects. Monkeys can live in forests and savannahs, but not in deserts. Some can live in snowy mountains, but more live in rainforests. There are none in the rainforests of Australia and New Guinea. Apparently, they never reached those islands.

Some monkeys are small, about 15 centimetres (6 in) long and 120 grams (4.2 oz) in weight. Other monkeys are much larger, about 1 metre (3 ft 3 in) long and 35 kilograms (77 lb) in weight. A group of monkeys is called a "troop" of monkeys or a "tribe" of monkeys.

The two groups of monkeys live in different places: the New World Monkeys in South America and the Old World Monkeys live mainly in Africa and Asia.[5] New World Monkeys are often smaller than Old World Monkeys.[6] Monkeys have long arms and legs to help them swing from trees. The monkeys often climb with the help of their tails. Some monkeys' tails can wrap tightly around branches, almost like a "fifth limb".[6] This type of tail is 'prehensile'.

The smallest known monkey is the pygmy marmoset. It is between 14 centimetres (5.5 in) and 16 centimetres (6.3 in) in size (without the tail). It weighs about 120 grams. It lives in the treetops of rainforests in Brazil, Colombia and Ecuador. The largest known monkey is the mandrill. It can grow to about 1 metre (3 ft 3 in) in size. Adults weigh up to 35 kilograms (77 lb), and spend most of their time on the ground.

The word monkey might have come from a popular German story, "Roman de Renart" (Reynard the Fox). In there, the name of the son of Martin the Ape is Moneke.[7]

In Africa, monkeys can be sold as "bushmeat" (meat of wild animals).[8] Monkey brains are eaten in some parts of Africa, South Asia, and China.[9]


  1. Groves 2008, pp. 92–93.
  2. "Monkey". Retrieved 31 December 2010.
  3. Dawkins, Richard (2004). The ancestor's tale: a pilgrimage to the dawn of evolution. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. 140. ISBN 9780618005833. Retrieved 2008-08-24.
  4. Fleagle, J.; Gilbert, C. Rowe, N.; Myers, M. (eds.). "Primate Evolution: John Fleagle and Chris Gilbert". All the World's Primates. Primate Conservation, Inc. Retrieved 18 December 2014.
  5. "Monkeys at Animal Corner". Retrieved 31 December 2010.
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Monkey: facts, pictures, video: Animal Planet". Retrieved 31 December 2010.
  7. "Online Etymology Dictionary". Retrieved 31 December 2010.
  8. "Primate bushmeat: populations exposed to simian immunodeficiency viruses". Retrieved 31 December 2010.
  9. "7 foods for the fearless eater - foodwine -". Archived from the original on 26 August 2010. Retrieved 31 December 2010.


  1. When Carl Linnaeus defined the genus Simia in the 10th edition of Systema Naturae, it included all non-human monkeys and apes (simians).[1] "Monkey" was never a taxonomic name: it is a common name for a paraphyletic group. Its members are in the infraorder Simiiformes.

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