Difference Between Primates and Monkeys -

Primates vs Monkeys

Primates were the last to evolve as a group among animals. Therefore, the number of primate species is not as high as many other animal groups. Since more than 50% of primate species are monkeys, it would be important to understand how monkeys differ from other primates. This article provides such important information on primates in general and monkeys in particular.


Primates are members of the Order: Primates that include gorillas, monkeys, orang-utans, humans, and many other highly evolved and intelligent animals. Intelligence is the stand out feature of the primates, but other features such as prehensile thumb and three-colour vision are important to notice about primates. Primates are a highly diversified group with more than 420 species classified under 16 families. The variation in body size is immense among them, as the smallest species weighs only 30 grams (Madame Berthe’s mouse lemur) while the most robust species weighs more than 200 kilograms (Mountain gorilla). These highly diversified animals have been able to sustain in tropical parts of the world but barely in North America and never in Australia and Antarctica. Most of the primates have highly expressive faces, in which the protruded nature is pronounced except in humans. Additionally, the face of primates is more flattened than elongated. The aggression is prominent among the individuals, especially among males of the same species. Primates, since their origin according to the oldest known specimen of Plasiadapis of the Paleocene epoch, have been able to adapt to the environmental demands with great adaptations and well developed brains.


Monkeys are a group of primates, and there are two main types of them, known as old world and new world monkeys according to their native geographical distribution. Altogether, there are more than 260 extant species of monkeys. It is interesting to notice that there is no defined taxonomic classification for monkeys, but it could be loosely expressed as a group of primates (Infraorder: Simiiformes) that are not hominoids; apes and humans are the hominoids. The smallest member, Pygmy Marmoset, is only 140 millimetres tall with a weight of 4 – 5 ounces, while the largest member, Mandrill, could weigh up to 35 kilograms and can be as tall as 1 metre at their standing posture. Monkeys show great adaptations for an arboreal life, which is to climb and leap among trees. However, there are some species of monkeys prefer to live in the savannah grasslands. Usually, they do not stand in the upright posture, but walk with all four limbs most of the time. There are differences between new world and old world monkeys, as well; new world monkeys have a prehensile tail and colour vision in their eyes, but not in all the old world species. All the monkeys have five digits with an opposable thumb in each limb to have a firm grasp. Additionally, they also have the binocular vision as all other primates. They are long-lived animals, as some species have their lifespan up to 50 years, but some could live only 10 years.


What is the difference between Primates and Monkeys?

• Primates, in general, are a larger group than monkeys.

• Usually, monkeys are smaller than primates in their body structures.

• Monkeys always have a tail while not all primates do have tails.

• Monkeys always have webbed feet, but not all the primates have webbed feet.

• Monkeys have a more flexible backbone than other primates do.