A primate is any member that belongs to the biological order Primates , the group that contains all the species commonly related to lemurs and monkeys, it is important to mention that this last category includes humans . It is a very wide and varied order of mammals that is subdivided into several categories and its evidence dates back more than 58 million years.


What are the primates?

Primates are an order of plantigrade mammals that have a total of five toes on their limbs and also have thumbs and are generally known as monkeys .

  • Characteristics of primates
  • Source
  • Evolution
  • Types
  • Habitat
  • Feeding
  • What were the first primates
  • Fossils
  • Kinship with man
  • Importance
  • Examples of current primates
  • Primates that currently have a tail

Characteristics of primates

The main characteristics that we can observe in primates are the following:

  • Primates have a type of stereoscopic and chromatic vision at the same time with which they can appreciate the distances of things.
  • They have hands that are used to be able to grasp things well.
  • Humans and their closest relatives belong to this group known as primates .
  • They have five fingers , a common dental pattern among them and a body adaptation .
  • Most primates, with the exception of humans who inhabit the world, inhabit the tropical and subtropical regions of America , Africa and Asia.
  • They have plantigrade feet .
  • They have an opposable thumb on the hands and feet.
  • Their fingers also have the ability to flex , they have divergence and convergence .
  • They have clavicles , nails , teeth , shoulder and elbow joints that are well developed.
  • They have binocular vision and eye sockets that are surrounded by bone.


It is believed that the origin of the primates comes from the arboreal insectivorous mammals that favored the development of some characteristics related to the displacement . The origin of the word comes from Linnaeus in the year 1758 when he carried out his taxonomic ordering of animals. Linnaeus included in your order Primates to people , monkeys apes, monkeys of the Old World and the New World monkeys. It showed that monkeys are the most similar animals to humans , and that they were the most developed of the animal kingdom .


The evolution of primates dates back to about 65 million years ago in the mid- Late Cretaceous period in Africa . The oldest fossil dates from the late Eocene and at the beginning of the Miocene different species begin to appear. It was during the Tertiary Era that primates began to proliferate . They lived in the trees and fed on fruits, but with the passage of time they had to abandon the arboreal habitat to which they were accustomed. Over time the Australopithecus appeared, which was the one that began to acquire aupright posture and a development in his cranial capacity .


The order of primates is divided into two different suborders, each with different characteristics, these are:

  • Suborder Strepsirrhines : they are known as the lower primates and were the first to appear on earth. They are animals capable of independently producing vitamin C. They are known as prosimians and have archaic characters . Their olfactory functions are much better than sight and they have a greater number of teeth . They are mostly nocturnal species. This order in turn is subdivided into:
  • Chiromyiformes – long fingers to catch insects on tree trunks.
  • Lamelliformes : which includes lemurs and they only inhabit Madagascar .
  • Suborder haplorhines : they are known as superior primates and includes monkeys , great apes and humans . This group has an infra order, the simiiformes, which are divided into two more groups according to their geographical distribution : the Platirrinos, also known as the new world monkeys , America and the Catirrinos, the old world monkeys , Africa. In this group we can find several families:
  • Cercopithecidae family : we find some species related to baboons such as geladas, baboons, the monkey or Gibraltar macaque.
  • Hylobatidae family : hominid primates belong to this group . The species that belong to this family are characterized by having very long arms.


Primates can be found inhabiting practically the entire world, excluding the continents of Australia and Antarctica . Its expansion has made each species indigenous to the places where they live and they have been able to adapt to the climate and food for their survival . They generally inhabit the jungles and savannas . One of the places considered the greatest in terms of diversity is the Island of Madagascar , in the case of lemurs. They are generally found in Africa , Asia and America.


As for their diet, primates take advantage of a wide variety of foods from nature . Many of them feed on fruits , leaves and some also eat insects . There are those that are considered carnivorous primates and are considered nocturnal hunters , they use their legs to catch their prey and then eat them. They can also include foods like lizards , bird eggs , fruits, and plant sap .

What were the first primates

The first primates came from a small arboreal mammal very similar to a squirrel , this one evolved little by little giving rise to species of greater size and better physical consistency . It was known by the name of Plesiadapis .


There are several types of primates of which there is a fossil record. Among them we mention:

  • Archicebus Achilles – Lived approximately 55 million years ago and was discovered by an international team of researchers in an ancient lake in central China’s Hubei province .
  • Microchoerus hookeri : a small arboreal animal with nocturnal habits that was discovered in a coal mine in Sossís , in Lleida . It is believed that it fed on fruits and resins. Experts consider that the habitat of this primate extended throughout the Iberian Peninsula and in Central Europe .
  • Nyanzapithecus alesi – An infant specimen that lived approximately 13 million years ago in the Miocene. It had features similar to that of gibbons , its snout was small and withdrawn, although it also had characteristics similar to that of chimpanzees and humans .

Kinship with man

Studies of the primate and human genome provide a wealth of information about human biology and evolution . Experts consider that between primates and man there are practically 99% similarities in the basic sequence of DNA . The man and the primates have many similarities mainly in our physical form if we compare them with other animals. The thumb , the eyes in front of the head and other characteristics suggest that we are descended from primates . Even in behavior and anatomy there are several similarities.


The importance of primates lies in the source of knowledge and research they provide scientists . Thanks to them, it has been possible to identify a series of behaviors and characteristics that make experts think that man comes directly from them. They are the basis of many studies and research , which seek to detail every day more, the origin and evolution of the human being.

Examples of current primates

Some examples of primates that we can find today are the following:

  • Titi monkey
  • Macaque
  • Baboon
  • Tamarin
  • Orangutan
  • Chimpanzee
  • Gorillas
  • humans

Primates that currently have a tail

Not all primates have a tail. The only primates that have a prehensile tail are those found on the American continent. The use of the tail is the basis of the locomotion of the primates of South America since they are mainly arboreal and need the tail to be able to maintain balance in the trees. The tails generally have small vertebrae and joints to provide flexibility and movement. They also have elongated and thick muscles in a dorsal position.

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