mono is the common name to refer to the apes belonging to the infraorder of the Simiiformes. The term includes both the New World and Old World families of monkeys.

The lemurs (Lemuroidea), loris (Lorisinae) Y galagos (Galagidae) are not monkeys, but raucous primates. However, although tarsi are haplorine primates, they do not belong to monkeys either.

Monkey eating
Monkey eating


There are some 260 known species of monkeys, distributed throughout the world, ranging from the chimpanzee (Gender: Pan) until the little pygmy marmoset (Cebuella pygmaea).

They can be classified in two ways, the old world monkey (Asia and Africa) and the new world monkey (South America). New World monkeys have forward eyes, but the faces of both monkeys are very different, although each group shares some characteristics such as nose, cheek, and rump types.

The following list shows where the various monkey families (in bold) fall in the classification of living (extant) primates.

  • Suborder Strepsirrhini: lemurs, lorises and galagos
  • Suborder Haplorhini: tarsiers, monkeys and apes
    • Infraorder Tarsiiformes
      • Family Tarsiidae: tarsiers
    • Infraorder Simiiformes: Simios
      • parvorder Platyrrhini: Jumpsuits of the new world
        • Familia Callitrichidae: marmosets and tamarins (42 species)
        • Family Cebidae: capuchins and saimiri monkeys (14 species)
        • Family Aotidae: nocturnal monkeys (11 species)
        • Family Pitheciidae: marmosets, sakis and uakaris (41 species)
        • Family Atelidae: howler monkeys, spider monkeys, and woolly monkeys (24 species)
      • parvorder Euteleostomi
        • Superfamily Cercopithecoidea
          • Cercopithecidae family: Jumpsuits old world (135 species)
        • Superfamily Hominoidea: apes
          • Familia Hylobatidae: gibbons («lesser apes») (17 especies)
          • Hominidae family: great apes (including humans, gorillas, chimpanzees and orangutans) (7 species)


The monkey varies in size according to the species to which they belong. The pygmy marmoset is the smallest species measuring 117 mm with a 172 mm tail and weighing about 100 g. Or the male mandrel, almost 1 meter long and weighing up to 36 kg.

The brain is large and they are known for their curiosity and intelligence. This allows them, together with the liberation of the hands and a developed vision, to have a great capacity for action. Most species are good at solving complex problems and learning from experience. Some species of the genus Cebus spontaneously use objects as tools, for example, they use stones to break nuts. Others, like baboons, learn to use sticks to obtain food. However, they do not reach the levels of great apes such as gorillas, chimpanzees and orangutans. They are not very good at learning from other people's experiences and must learn the behavior by themselves. The exception is the macaque Japanese (Macaca fuscata) who was exposed to various experiments where they offered him food wrapped in paper. Once an individual was able to solve the problem, his finding gradually spread to the rest of the individuals who copied his behavior. These experiments have had implications in the redefinition of cultural behavior.

They are able to sit upright, which leaves their hands free for various handling tasks. The hands and feet are used to grasp and have five digits, the thumb and the big toe being different from the others. The fingers have crushed nails except for the tití pigmeo (Cebuella pygmaea) that have claws on all toes except the thumb of the foot that has a nail.

On the ground, the hands walk using the entire sole of the foot touching the ground but the palm of the hand raised. They can stay upright for short periods, but they rarely do so and almost never walk on two legs.


The monkey is a very sociable animal, and almost all species live in groups consisting of several females with young and a single male, as in the hamadryas baboons (Papio hamadryas), chucks (Mandrillus sphinx), most of the guenones (Cercopithecus) and most languages (Semnopithecus) or several males, as in the baboons (Papio) and monkeys (monkey). Females generally remain in the group they were born into, so they are related to each other. Males are incorporated into other groups at maturity, so they are not as related to each other as females and are somewhat antagonistic.

Like humans, the monkey yawns when tired or angry about something, just like humans. Howler monkeys are the loudest species, emitting noises that reach up to 16 km.

All monkeys are diurnal, with the exception of the northern marikiná (Aotus trivirgatus) from the tropics of Central and South America. They are also mostly arboreal, jumping from branch to branch in their movement between trees, with some exceptions of some Old World species.

To communicate with each other they use facial expressions and body movements, with a smile being a sign of aggression. However, they are also capable of expressing affection and make amends by grooming each other.


The monkey inhabits tropical jungles, forests of the southern hemisphere, and savannas.


The monkey is distributed between Asia and Africa, called old world monkeys and in South America, called new world monkeys.

Close-up of a Japanese monkey
Close-up of a Japanese monkey


The monkey is an omnivorous animal that feeds on foliage, nuts, fruits, berries, insects, and the larger species of monkeys feed on small birds and mammals.

As a curiosity, monkeys never eat a banana like a hand would. They peel the bananas completely, discard the peel, and then eat it.


The monkey has several natural predators, although it varies between species. The most common are: anacondas, jaguars, The snakes python, Eagles, Cougars, Crocodiles, hawks, leopards, boas and coyotes.

Not being able to defend themselves from large predators, they have developed different such as the ability to swim, alarm calls, etc.


The female monkey has a very similar reproduction to humans and apes. They suckle their young and have a menstrual cycle, although less abundant.

Sexual activity is strictly limited to the period around ovulation (heat), in other species there does not seem to be any type of restriction.

In some species they reproduce throughout the year, and others have a period of several months where they do not undergo any sexual cycle (anestrus).

State of conservation

Monkey conservation status varies by species, but there are endangered species in both America, Asia and Africa due to the destruction of their natural habitats.

Critically endangered

  • Pigtail Langur (monkeys coneolor)
  • Langur de Delacour (Trachypithecus delacouri)
  • White-headed langur (Trachypithecus poliocephalus)
  • Douc de patas grises (Pygathrix cinerea)
  • Langur de nariz chata de Tonkin (Rhinopithecus uncle)
  • Eastern Black-crested Gibbon (Nomascus nasutus)
  • Spider monkey (Ateles hybridus)
  • Brown-headed spider monkey (Ateles fusciceps fusciceps)
  • Mono capuchino Kaapori (Cebus kaapori)
  • Rio Mayo marmoset (Callicebus oenanthe)
  • Carayá northern colorado (Alouatta guariba guariba)

In danger of extinction

  • Tana River Red Colobus (Colobus rufomitratus)
  • Cercopiteco de Roloway (Cercopithecus roloway)
  • Colobo de Pennant (Procolobus pennantii pennantii)

Relationship with humans

The monkey is related to humans in various ways. Some are kept as pets, others are used by organisms in laboratories or on space missions. When they threaten agriculture they are killed in groups or used as service animals for the disabled.

In certain areas, some species are considered agricultural pests, since they can cause great damage to commercial and subsistence crops. This becomes a problem for endangered species, which can be targets of persecution. Some farmers exaggerate the damage caused by monkeys. Monkeys settled in tourist areas can also be considered "pests" when attacking tourists.

Some organizations train capuchin monkeys to help tetraplegics and others with serious spinal cord injuries or mobility impairments to help improve their quality of life. After being raised alongside a human as babies, the monkeys go through extensive training before living with a quadriplegic. Monkeys help you with small chores around the house, like cooking in the microwave and opening bottles.

The most used species for research are: cercopiteco verde (grivet), The rhesus monkey (Mulatta Macaque) And the crab macaque (Macaca fascicularis), which are caught or raised for specific purposes. They are used for their ease of handling, their rapid reproduction (compared to apes), and their physical and psychological similarity to humans. It is estimated that around the world, each year between 100.000 - 200.000 non-human primates are used in research, of which 64,7% are old world monkeys and 5,5% are new world monkeys.

Countries like the United States and France have used monkeys as part of their space exploration program. The first monkey to reach space was Albert II, who flew in the V-2 rocket launched by the United States on June 14, 1949.

In some areas of Asia, Africa and China they are considered a delicacy. They are also eaten in parts of Africa where they are sold as 'bushmeat'. Monkeys are prohibited in Islamic dietary laws.

Popular culture

Monkeys are considered by many religions and cultures as a symbol of joy, mischief, and fun.

In Chinese mythology there is a character called Sun Wukong (the "King of the Monkeys") who is the protagonist of the classic Chinese comic novel Journey to the West.

Monkeys are prevalent in numerous books, television shows, and movies. The television series Monkey and the literary characters Monsieur Eek and Curious George are all examples.

Informally, the term "monkey" is often used more widely than in scientific usage and can be used to refer to apes, particularly chimpanzees, gibbons, and gorillas.

In Hinduism, Hanuman is a prominent deity in Hinduism. He is depicted as a human-like monkey god who is believed to give courage, strength, and longevity to the person who thinks of him.

The Sanzaru, or three wise monkeys, are revered in Japanese folklore; Together they embody the proverbial principle "See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil."

The Moche people of ancient Peru worshiped nature. They emphasized animals and often depicted monkeys in their art.

The Tzeltal people of Mexico worshiped monkeys as incarnations of their dead ancestors.

In the Chinese zodiac, the monkey (猴) is the ninth in the twelve-year cycle of animals related to the Chinese calendar. The next time the monkey appears as a sign of the zodiac will be in the year 2028.

List of other interesting animals