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How to tell a monkey from an ape + more monkey facts


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Today we celebrate monkeys! Want to find out more? Join Mr. Orlando as he gives us the lowdown on our primate pals.


Monkeys and apes are different types of primates.

First things first — a monkey is not the same as an ape. They are two different species, but they do look similar, which is why people sometimes get them confused.

But here are some handy tips on how to spot the difference:

  • Monkeys have tails, apes don’t.
  • Monkeys are usually smaller, and they walk on all fours. Apes are bigger and can walk on four or two legs.
  • Most monkeys can’t use tools (like a twig to grab insects). But apes can.

Old World and New World monkeys live on different continents.

Yup — monkeys can be classified based on where they live. Monkeys in Africa and Asia are called Old World monkeys, while monkeys in Central or South America are called New World monkeys.

They also have some physical differences. New World monkeys are small, have flat noses and live in trees. Old World monkeys are bigger, their noses are narrower and pointier and they can live in different places including mountains, grasslands and forests. In some cases, they even live in towns!

Like primates? Be sure to check out 6 things you may not know about orangutans

Some monkeys can use their tail to hang from trees.

Monkeys use their tails for balance, whether they’re jumping, swinging or climbing. But some New World monkeys, like the spider monkey, can do all sorts of things with their tails. They can curl their tails around tree branches and grip tightly, and even pick fruit and hold objects!

The smallest monkey can fit in an adult palm.

It’s true! The pygmy marmoset (say "mar-MO-set") is the smallest monkey in the world. As it’s so small, the pygmy marmoset can be prey for predators like hawks and snakes — but they have be caught first! Pygmy marmosets move fast and can jump almost five metres in the air. That’s almost double the height of a stop sign!

Pygmy marmosets are also great climbers, which comes in handy when trying to make an escape or when looking for their favourite grub — tree sap.

The loudest monkey is the howler monkey.

Give a grunt for the howler monkey! These monkeys can make quite a racket. When they hoot and holler, you can hear them from five kilometres away. That’s the length of 174 basketball courts end to end! They have special vocal chambers that allow them to make such loud calls.

The purpose behind these calls? Mainly to let other monkeys know they should stay away. And if they don’t, they’re sure to hear about it.