Types of Monkeys

    Types of Monkeys

    Types of Monkeys: Many things come to mind when you think monkeys. They are often considered to be cute and very intelligent animals. Many species have their own characteristics regarding location, size, color, and even abilities.

    Monkeys are very vocal animals, which is how they communicate. They emit different tones to protect themselves from danger, call a mate, and even communicate with their young.

    Monkeys consist of many species throughout the world. On this page, the BioExplorer team explores all types of monkeys in the mammalian world.

    First Grouping of Primates

    St. George Jackson Mivart
    Image: Wikimedia

    An English biologist, St. George Jackson Mivart, first published the classification of primates in his book ‘Man and Apes’ in 1873[1]. His categorization of monkeys was based purely on anatomical differences, habits, and geographical distribution. According to this book, the early classification of order Primates contained two sub-groups, namely:

    • Group-1: Man, and all the apes, which were first called Anthropoidea.
    • Group-2: All Lemurs and the animals most like them were called Lemuroidea; the creatures contained in it when spoken of being generally also termed “Half-apes” or “Lemuroids“.

    Modern Grouping of Primates

    Primates Groups

    After so many debates and further data collection and analyses and discoveries of new monkey species over a century, another British-born biological anthropologist, Robert D. Martin, currently a curator at Chicago Natural Museum, has published an excellent book called “Primate Origins and Evolution: A Phylogenetic Reconstruction” in 1994[2]. This research attempted to classify living primates into 6 different sub-groups based on geographical importance.

    # Primate Groupings Geographical Region Collectively Called
    1 Lemurs Madagascar
    2 Lorises and bushbabies Africa and Asia Prosimians
    3 Tarsiers Southeast Asia
    4 Marmosets, Tamarins, Capuchins, Squirrel monkeys, Owl monkeys, Titis, Sakis, and Howlers (Ceboidea) South and Latin America New World Monkeys
    5 Talapoins, Guenons, Baboons, Colobus, Macaques, Vervets, Geladas, Mangabeys, Langurs, Mandrills, Surili, Patas, Proboscis Monkeys (Cercopithecoids meaning “elongated apes“) Africa and Asia Old World Monkeys
    6 Apes and humans (Hominoids) Africa and Asia Apes

    This primate grouping is based on grade or level of organization, and in no way does it implies any superiority or inferiority between them.

    According to the fossil study in Tanzania by paleontologists in 2013[3], it became evident that the old-world monkeys (baboons, macaques) and apes (humans & chimpanzees) were already separated 25 million years ago!

    Classification of Primates

    Here are 4 major types of primate and their characteristics:

    • Prosimians


      The earliest primates roamed the earth about 25 million years before monkeys evolved were Prosimians, meaning “pre-monkeys” or “proto-primates”.

      • These prosimian species live today, including lemurs, lorises, tarsiers, aye-aye, and bushbabies. The prosimians were classified into order Primates mainly because their hands with flexible fingers and opposable thumbs made it possible to fetch things up.
      • Most prosimians rely heavily on a sense of smell for communication and finding food. With the tarsier, eyesight has become more critical as it can swivel its head 180 degrees in each direction. On the other hand, the apes and monkeys rely primarily on their sight.
      • Today Prosimians live in some parts of Asia and Africa, especially Madagascar. No prosimian species are found in the Americas or Australia.

    • Old-World Monkeys

      Old-World Monkeys

      Old World Monkeys are a mixed group of primates with varied body sizes (medium to large-sized), habitats, diets, social behaviors, and anatomical differences.

      • All Old-World monkeys are classified under two families: Cercopithecinae and Colobinae.
      • Unique characteristics-wise, Old-World monkeys have downward-pointing nostrils, tend to stay mainly on the ground than trees (non-arboreal), and have a simple digestive system with cheek pouches for plant matters. Also, these primates have a tail which makes them differ from apes.
      • The Old-World monkeys hail from various countries in South and East Asia, the Middle East, and Africa, except for Madagascar.
    • New-World Monkeys

      New-World Monkeys

      New World monkeys are a varied group of small to medium-sized arboreal (i.e., living on trees) primates.

      • These primates are restricted to the tropical forests of Southern Mexico and Central and Latin America.
      • Taxonomically, New World monkeys are classified into two prominent families Cebidae and Callitricidae.
      • Exclusive attributes-wise, these kinds of monkeys are primarily herbivores, twin births, no-cheek-pouches unlike Old-World counterparts, and some have a prehensile tail (Spider monkeys).
    • Apes


      Apes are another clade of old-world monkeys collectively called Hominoidea, native to Africa and Southeast Asian countries.

      • Apes do not have tails due to the mutation of the TXBT[4] gene cell.
      • Also, apes cannot perform brachiation (arm swinging in the arboreal movements on tree tops, unlike the other three kinds listed above).
      • There are two main branches of apes: gibbons (“lesser apes”) and hominids (“great apes”). Orangutans, gorillas, chimpanzees, and bonobos are examples of greater apes, whereas the lesser apes contain all types of gibbons, including Lar gibbon, Agile gibbon, Silvery gibbon, and more.

      Hominoids are swift tree climbers except for gorillas and humans. Apes feed on various plant matters such as fruits, leaves, stalks, seeds, roots, and small animals.

    Types of Monkeys

    Here is a collection of all types of monkeys in the world.

    Cite This Page


    BioExplorer.net. (2022, August 12). Types of Monkeys. Bio Explorer. https://www.bioexplorer.net/animals/mammals/monkeys/.

    BioExplorer.net. "Types of Monkeys" Bio Explorer, 12 August 2022, https://www.bioexplorer.net/animals/mammals/monkeys/.

    BioExplorer.net. "Types of Monkeys" Bio Explorer, August 12 2022. https://www.bioexplorer.net/animals/mammals/monkeys/.

    Key References

    • [1]“Man and apes; an exposition of structural resemblances and … – Full View | HathiTrust Digital Library”. Accessed July 03, 2022. Link.
    • [2]“Scientific Publications | how-we-do-it”. Accessed July 03, 2022. Link.
    • [3]“Scientists Discover Oldest Evidence of Split Between Old World Monkeys and Apes | NSF – National Science Foundation”. Accessed July 03, 2022. Link.
    • [4]“The genetic basis of tail-loss evolution in humans and apes | bioRxiv”. Accessed July 05, 2022. Link.


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