A monkey is a primate of the Haplorrhini suborder and simian infraorder, either an Old World monkey or a New World monkey, but excluding apes and humans. There are about 260 known living species of monkey. Many are arboreal, although there are species that live primarily on the ground, such as baboons. Monkeys are generally considered to be intelligent. Unlike apes, monkeys usually have tails. Tailless monkeys may be called "apes", incorrectly according to modern usage; thus the tailless Barbary macaque is called the "Barbary ape".
The New World monkeys (superfamily Ceboidea) are classified within the parvorder of Platyrrhini, whereas the Old World monkeys (superfamily Cercopithecoidea) form part of the parvorder Catarrhini, which also includes the hominoids (apes, including humans). Thus, as Old World monkeys are more closely related to hominoids than they are to New World monkeys, the monkeys are not a unitary (monophyletic) group.
Historical and modern terminology
According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the word "monkey" may originate in a German version of the Reynard the Fox fable, published circa 1580. In this version of the fable, a character named Moneke is the son of Martin the Ape. In English, no very clear distinction was originally made between "ape" and "monkey"; thus the 1910 Encyclopædia Britannica entry for "ape" notes that it is either a synonym for "monkey" or is used to mean a tailless humanlike primate. Such ambiguities persist. Colloquially, the terms "monkeys" and "apes" may still be used interchangeably. Also, a few monkey species have the word "ape" in their common name, such as the Barbary ape.
Later in the first half of the 20th century, the idea developed that there were trends in primate evolution and that the living members of the order could be arranged in a series, leading through "monkeys" and "apes" to humans. Monkeys thus constituted a "grade" on the path to humans and were distinguished from "apes".
Scientific classifications are now more often based on monophyletic groups, that is groups consisting of all the descendants of a common ancestor. The New World monkeys and the Old World monkeys are each monophyletic groups, but their combination is not, since it excludes hominoids (apes and humans). Thus the term "monkey" no longer refers to a recognized scientific taxon. The smallest accepted taxon which contains all the monkeys is the infraorder Simiiformes, or simians. However this also contains the hominoids (apes and humans), so that monkeys are, in terms of currently recognized taxa, non-hominoid simians.
A group of monkeys may be commonly referred to as a tribe or a troop.
Monkeys range in size from the pygmy marmoset, which can be as small as 117 millimetres (4.6 in) with a 172-millimetre (6.8 in) tail and just over 100 grams (3.5 oz) in weight, to the male mandrill, almost 1 metre (3.3 ft) long and weighing up to 36 kilograms (79 lb). Some are arboreal (living in trees) while others live on the savanna; diets differ among the various species but may contain any of the following: fruit, leaves, seeds, nuts, flowers, eggs and small animals (including insects and spiders).
Some characteristics are shared among the groups; most New World monkeys have prehensile tails while Old World monkeys have non-prehensile tails or no visible tail at all. Old World monkeys have trichromatic color vision like that of humans, while New World monkeys may be trichromatic, dichromatic, or—as in the owl monkeys and greater galagos—monochromatic. Although both the New and Old World monkeys, like the apes, have forward-facing eyes, the faces of Old World and New World monkeys look very different, though again, each group shares some features such as the types of noses, cheeks and rumps.
|Phylogeny of living (extant) primates|
|Monkeys (in green brackets) are not a monophyletic group, since they exclude hominoids.|
The following list shows where the various monkey families (bolded) are placed in the classification of living (extant) primates.
- ORDER PRIMATES
- Suborder Strepsirrhini: non-tarsier prosimians
- Suborder Haplorhini: tarsiers, monkeys, and apes
- Infraorder Tarsiiformes
- Family Tarsiidae: tarsiers
- Infraorder Simiiformes: simians
- Parvorder Platyrrhini: New World monkeys
- Parvorder Catarrhini
- Infraorder Tarsiiformes
Relationship with humans
The many species of monkey have varied relationships with humans. Some are kept as pets, others used as model organisms in laboratories or in space missions. They may be killed in monkey drives when they threatened agriculture, or used as service animals for the disabled.
In some areas, some species of monkey are considered agricultural pests, and can cause extensive damage to commercial and subsistence crops. This can have important implications for the conservation of endangered species, which may be subject to persecution. In some instances farmers' perceptions of the damage may exceed the actual damage. Monkeys that have become habituated to human presence in tourist locations may also be considered pests, attacking tourists.
In religion and culture, the monkey often represents quick-wittedness and mischief.
As service animals for the disabled
Some organizations train capuchin monkeys as service animals to assist quadriplegics and other people with severe spinal cord injuries or mobility impairments. After being socialized in a human home as infants, the monkeys undergo extensive training before being placed with a disabled person. Around the house, the monkeys assist with feeding, fetching, manipulating objects, and personal care.
The most common monkey species found in animal research are the grivet, the rhesus macaque, and the crab-eating macaque, which are either wild-caught or purpose-bred. They are used primarily because of their relative ease of handling, their fast reproductive cycle (compared to apes) and their psychological and physical similarity to humans. Worldwide it is thought that between 100,000 and 200,000 non-human primates are used in research each year, 64.7% of which are Old World monkeys, and 5.5% New World monkeys. This number makes a very small fraction of all animals used in research. Between 1994 and 2004 the United States has used an average of 54,000 non-human primates, while around 10,000 non-human primates were used in the European Union in 2002.
The use of monkeys in laboratories is controversial. Animal rights activists claim that their use is cruel and produces little information of value, and there have been many protests, vandalism to testing facilities and threats to workers. Others claim that it has led to many important medical breakthroughs such as the rabies vaccine, understanding of human reproduction and basic knowledge about brain function and that the prevention of harm to humans should be a higher priority than the possible harm done to monkeys. The topic has become a popular cause for animal rights and animal welfare groups.
A number of countries have used monkeys as part of their space exploration programmes, including the United States and France. The first monkey in space was Albert II who flew in the US-launched V-2 rocket on June 14, 1949.
Monkey brains are eaten as a delicacy in parts of South Asia, Africa and China. In traditional Islamic dietary laws, the eating of monkeys is forbidden. However, monkeys are sometimes eaten in parts of Africa, where they can be sold as "bushmeat".
Informally, the term "monkey" is often used more broadly than in scientific use, and may be used to refer to apes, particularly chimpanzees, gibbons, and gorillas. Author Terry Pratchett alludes to this difference in usage in his Discworld novels, in which the Librarian of the Unseen University is an orangutan who gets very violent if referred to as a monkey.
Religion and worship
In Buddhism, the monkey is an early incarnation of Buddha but may also represent trickery and ugliness. The Chinese Buddhist "mind monkey" metaphor refers to the unsettled, restless state of human mind. Monkey is also one of the Three Senseless Creatures, symbolizing greed, with the tiger representing anger and the deer lovesickness.
The Tzeltal people of Mexico worshipped monkeys as incarnations of their dead ancestors.
The Monkey (猴) is the ninth in the twelve-year cycle of animals which appear in the Chinese zodiac related to the Chinese calendar. The next time that the monkey will appear as the zodiac sign will be in the year 2016.
- List of New World monkey species
- List of Old World monkey species
- List of individual monkeys
- List of fictional primates
- List of primates by population
- Signifying monkey
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|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: monkeys|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Monkey|
- "The Impossible Housing and Handling Conditions of Monkeys in Research Laboratories", by Viktor Reinhardt, International Primate Protection League, August 2001
- The Problem with Pet Monkeys: Reasons Monkeys Do Not Make Good Pets, an article by veterinarian Lianne McLeod on About.com
- Helping Hands: Monkey helpers for the disabled, a U.S. national non-profit organization based in Boston Massachusetts that places specially trained capuchin monkeys with people who are paralyzed or who live with other severe mobility impairments