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Monkey Facts

Monkeys are a favorite animal for many as they are very expressive and often act just like people.

There are over 264 species of monkeys around the world and each one has its own unique features and abilities.

Monkey Facts for Kids

  • Monkeys are highly intelligent animals
  • Mandrill monkeys have big fangs that are much longer than a lion’s
  • The first monkey in space was called named Albert
  • The female spider monkey has the longest tail
  • The male howler monkey is very loud in fact is one of the loudest animals in the world
  • There are no monkeys in Antarctica
  • Monkeys can live for between 10 and 50 years
  • Grooming is a big part of socialization for Monkeys
  • The largest monkey is the male Mandrill which is about 3.3 ft. (1 meter) long and can weigh in at nearing 77 lbs. (35 kg).
  • The smallest monkey is the Pygmy Marmoset which measures 4-4 ½ inches (117-159 mm) in length and weighs only 3-5 oz. (85-140 grams).
  • Monkeys can carry diseases that can threaten human life.
  • Monkeys will eat plants and animals and there are some monkeys that actually eat dirt.
  • Monkeys can hold and grasp things with both their fingers and toes and they are known for peeling their bananas and tossing the skins aside.

Types of Monkeys

Capuchin Monkey

Capuchin monkeys were named after Capuchin monks, thanks to their distinctive “hood” pattern on their heads. These small monkeys populate parts of Central and South America. They are diurnal and spend the majority of the day hunting for food.

Capuchins are skillful foragers and eat an extremely varied diet, including nuts, plants, fruit, sugarcane, bulbs, and even shellfish. They live in groups of between 10 and 35 with a strict hierarchy organized under one male leader.

This hierarchy determines mating behavior, friendships, and social bonds. Capuchins are widely considered some of the most intelligent monkey species in the New World and have been trained as pets and even service animals around the world.

They gained fame in captivity as “organ grinder monkeys” thanks to their intelligence and trainability. 

Chimpanzee

Chimpanzees are not monkeys but rather a species of great ape native to Africa. These live in dwindling numbers through tropical regions, including forests and savannas. They are closely related to humans, sharing up to 98 percent of our DNA.

This is evident not only in their extreme intelligence but also in their use of tools, even sharpening sticks to hunt small animals. Chimpanzees are unusually large primates, with males reaching a maximum of 154 lbs.

Their long arms are perfect for either tree-living or moving on the ground. Chimpanzees have a complex social structure consisting of groups up to 150, with subsets for same-sex groups, nursing mothers, and others. They may also travel, either alone or in small groups.

Gibbon

Gibbons are not monkeys but rather apes. Specifically, they belong to the family of smaller apes, which are distinct from great apes that include chimpanzees, gorillas, humans, and others.

They are adept at swinging from tree to tree and are known as the fastest mammals without wings. Gibbons have distinct territories, which they fiercely defend. They usually do this through distinct vocalizations, which can be heard up to a kilometer away.

Unlike many other apes, gibbons usually mate for life, although this is not universal. They may occasionally separate. They are omnivorous, living largely off of fruit, with supplementation of twigs, leaves, plants, and occasionally eggs. They are native to Southeast Asia and parts of China.

Gorillas

Gorillas are some of the closest living relatives of humans, sharing as much as 99 percent of our DNA. They inhabit many areas of sub-Saharan Africa, including forests, mountains, and swamps.

Gorillas are unusually large primates who move by knuckle-walking, meaning that they support part of their weight on their fists. They live in troops, usually consisting of a single dominant male, multiple females, and their babies.

These troops make ground nests where they shelter and sleep. Gorillas are highly intelligent and have a complex form of communication with 25 known vocalizations. Gorillas in captivity have even been taught some forms of sign language to communicate with humans. 

Howler Monkey

Howler monkeys are some of the largest monkey species found in the New World. They are known for their distinctive howling call, which is among the loudest performed by land animals.

This call can be heard up to three miles away. The volume of male howlers’ screams is directly correlated to the size of their testes; monkeys with smaller genitals scream more loudly. Howler monkeys are also known for their unusually long tails, which maybe five times as long as their body.

These tails are prehensile and can easily support their weight as they move through the trees. Howler monkeys live in moderate-sized groups of about 15 members. Unlike many other primates, howler monkeys move slowly. They are folivores, living off of leaves, fruits, seeds, nuts, and occasionally, eggs. 

Orangutan

Orangutans are large primates, once found throughout Southeast Asia. In modern times, they are found in Indonesia and Malaysia. Orangutans are known for their large size, disproportionately long arms, and unique cheek “flanges.” which are used to display dominance.

They are the most arboreal of all great apes. Orangutans spend the vast majority of their time in trees, eating fruit and leaves. Eating takes up a majority of their waking hours, and they play an important role in the distribution of seeds.

Unlike most other primates, they are not a highly social species. Mature females establish independent ranges where they raise their offspring, keeping their distance from other adults. 

Patas Monkey

Patas monkeys are ground-dwelling monkeys found throughout West Africa. Despite their large size, patas monkeys have a diet that is similar to that of smaller primates, consisting of tubers, insects, seeds, and gum. Unlike most monkeys that live in multi-sex groups, patas monkeys split into groups divided by sex. Usually, a single male lives among the females. The exception is during mating season when the groups mingle and then separate again. Each of these groups has a complex social structure and hierarchy. Because they are native to areas with sparse vegetation, they rarely climb trees, even to escape predators. Instead, they rely on alarm calls, fleeing, and even defensive fighting. 

Pygmy Marmoset

The pygmy marmoset is a tiny monkey found throughout the Amazon Basin. This species is the smallest monkey on the planet, with adults weighing around 3.5 oz. In captivity, they are sometimes referred to as finger monkeys or fingerlings.

They live in small groups of about six, usually composed of immediate family members. Pygmy marmosets are gummivores, meaning that they live mostly off of tree sap, with some supplementation of insects.

Their unique teeth let them gouge into the trunks of trees to tap into sap flow. They also may eat nectar and fruit. Pygmy marmosets are known for their unique and complex forms of vocalization, which use an elaborate system of vibration and pitch to communicate.

Spider Monkey

Spider monkeys are found throughout tropical regions in Central and South America. Their long limbs and prehensile tails make them excellent climbers and some of the largest monkeys in the New World.

Spider monkeys live in moderately-sized groups that break into subgroups during daylight hours to reduce the risk of attracting predators and inciting squabbles over food. These social groups have complex organizations and may be led by one dominant female.

Spider monkeys live primarily on fruit and nuts, though they may eat plants, insects, and honey. Their large brains help them recall where food is abundant, and they may travel in smaller groups to forage. 

Squirrel Monkey

Squirrel monkeys are native to South and Central America, with significant outspread in the Amazon. These small monkeys are known throughout the world for their slim figures and distinctive white “mask” on their facial fur.

They live in large groups of up to 500, staying largely to the trees to avoid predators. They use their long, distinctive tails as balancing mechanisms while moving through the trees. Since they are small, squirrel monkeys are vulnerable to falcons, snakes, and other hunters.

They are omnivorous, with the majority of their diet being fruit and insects. However, they also eat various plant matter, flowers, eggs, and other materials. 

 

Monkeys are divided into two subgroups:

Old World monkeys that can be found and live in Asia and Africa

New World Monkeys are found in South America.

Apes are not considered to be monkeys, although monkeys and apes are considered to share the simian primate group.

Old World Monkeys

Most Old World monkeys have curved, small nostrils that are set quite close together however, New World monkeys have round nostrils that are far apart and their noses are flat.

There are 96 Old World Monkey species and 81 New World monkey species, although there are more New World species that are being discovered.

  • Monkeys can be identified easily as they all have tails.
  • Most monkeys run across branches, although there are some species that do swing in trees arm-to-arm.
  • Monkeys communicate through a variety of sound vocalizations, body movements, and facial expressions.

 

In the world of monkeys, pulling the lip or grinning is a sign of aggression.

Other signs of aggression can include head bobbing, yawning, and jerking the shoulders and head forward.

Monkeys are very social

Monkeys are very social, living in groups called a ‘troop’ and they express affection and bonding through the grooming process.

The habitats of monkeys can include grasslands, high plains, trees, and forests.

However, they are quickly losing the places where they can live as it is disappearing due to human invasion.

Monkeys that live in trees are called arboreal and they spend most of their lives in the trees.

Species such as baboons primarily live on the ground.

Monkeys are omnivores and eat such things like nuts, seeds, leaves, flowers, fruit, insects and honey.

The alpha or leader of the group is mostly a male monkey and they generally fight for this right. As a leader, this gives them the right to mate with all the females within the group.