Monkeys and Primates: Our Captivating Cousins
Why are people so fascinated by monkeys and other primates? Perhaps because the study of the primate order—our closest biological relatives—is the study of ourselves, and our evolution. However, as well as providing important information about our behavioral and physiological development, primates undoubtedly hold a fascination for humans beyond simple academic explanation.
Monkeys and other primates have a number of common features. Most are tree-dwellers, and well adapted to climbing. Most have opposable thumbs, an evolutionary milestone that enables both the manipulation of objects and life in the trees. They have forward-facing eyes, flat finger and toe nails rather than claws, and fingerprints. They are intelligent mammals, capable of tool use, complex social interaction, and a number of other traits that we typically consider to be human. Here is an introduction to some of the most interesting animals and behaviors that the primate order has to offer.