Wednesday, 10 December 2014

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A MONKEY AND AN APE?


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Both Apes and monkeys are primates and so share some key characteristics that make them suitable for a life in the tree tops.  These include highly flexible arms, legs and fingers that enable them to move from branch to branch and forward facing eyes that give primates excellent depth perception.

These higher primates belong to the sub order Anthropoids, which vary considerably in size, geographical range and behaviour but all have flat faces, small ears and relatively large, complex brains. Within this suborder primates are grouped into monkeys, apes and hominids (which include humans).

Although Apes and monkeys share some evolutionary ancestry as hominids, monkeys split off a long time before apes along the human evolutionary line. Humans (and extinct hominids) have large brains and advanced reasoning capabilities. The development of bipedal walking  was a key stage in mans development as this freed up the hands for use of tools whilst walking.

Monkeys 

Monkeys belong to the primate group along with tarsiers, lemurs, apes and humans.  There are about 260 known living species of monkey including marmoset, squirrel monkey, spider monkey, tamarin, howler monkey. Langur and Colobus monkey.

Monkeys are classified into two major groups, the New World primates of South and Central America and the Old World primates of Asia and Africa. The major difference between them other than location is that New World primates have tails that can grasp and hold things, which Old World primates can not do.  New world primates do not have opposable thumbs which most Old World primates possess.

One of the key differences between a monkey and an ape is that monkeys have a tail, whilst apes or hominids do not.  Monkeys are much more similar to other mammals than apes are, and have a similar skeleton to a cat or dog.  They cannot swing from branch to branch as their shoulder bones are different in structure to humans or ape and so run along tree tops instead.

Apes

Apes include gorillas, chimpanzees, orangutans and gibbons.  They are much more like human beings than monkeys or lower primates are.  They have the same basic body structure, possess a high level of intelligence and may exhibit similar behaviour. However unlike hominids that evolved to walk upright on two legs, apes use all four limbs to move along the ground.

Chimpanzees are humans' closest living relatives and we share 98% genetic material with them.  They can use simple tools extensively and develop culture amongst their groups. Gorillas, chimpanzees and orangutans exhibit extensive language capability as well, although they do not have the necessary physiological adaptations to produce speech.

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