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Fun Facts About Monkeys

Proboscis monkey
The nose of a male proboscis monkey can exceed 3.9 inches (10 centimeters), and is thought to woo females.
Credit: © Ikki Matsuda

Monkeys are known to be highly intelligent and capable primates. There are more than 260 known species of monkeys in the world. They are classified into Old World (from Africa and Asia) and New World (South American) monkeys.

One can easily identify Old and New World monkeys because Old World monkeys don’t have prehensile tails. Monkeys range in size from the Pygmy Marmoset, at 5–6 inches (15 cm) long from head to tail and 4–5 oz (0.11 to 0.14 kg) in weight, to the male Mandrill, almost 3.3 ft (1 meter) long and weighing 77 pounds (35 kg). Most monkeys are tree-dwellers but some live in grasslands. Monkey live in groups called missions or tribes and have a strict hierarchy.

Monkeys eat a variety of foods, such as fruit, insects, flowers, leaves and reptiles. Old World monkeys have special pouches in their cheek where they can store food. Many species of monkeys are regarded as highly intelligent and often kept as pets, used in science experiments and some have been even sent to space.

A mama gelada monkey (<em>Theropithecus gelada</em>) carrying her baby on her back.
A mama gelada monkey (Theropithecus gelada) carrying her baby on her back.
Credit: riekephotos | Shutterstock

Other facts about monkeys

The first monkey to fly to space was Albert II. He flew 83 miles in space on June 14, 1949, in the V-2, a rocket launched by the United States.

Howler monkeys are very loud. Their calls can be heard throughout the forest and even further through open area. The males call to announce their territory to other groups.

Monkeys can possess exceptional strength and will attack aggressively if provoked. They have been known to attack humans.

A titi monkey
A titi monkey, part of a family of species that ranges across South America.
Credit: Jarp2, Shutterstock

Grinning or pulling the lip is a sign of aggression in monkeys, along with yawning, head bobbing, and jerking the head and shoulders forward.

Monkeys express affection and make peace with others by grooming each other.

South American Titi monkeys are rare among primates because they mate for life. They show affection by grooming each other, intertwining their tails, holding hands, cuddling, and lip smacking.

Capuchins are skilled tool users. They can smash nuts with rocks, insert branches into crevices to capture food, and use large branches to club snakes. They are often used in lab experiments because of their intelligence.

A spider monkey is named after its long tail and lengthy spidery limbs. These monkeys can quickly walk on two legs across a tree branch.

Old World monkeys and humans share a common ancestor. Scientists say the evolutionary split may have occured between 20 and 30 million years ago.

Other resources:

National Geographic- Howler Monkey

San Diego Zoo - Monkey

National Geographic - Spider Monkey

Smithsonian National Zoo - Primates

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