World Monkey Day: 16 Fun Facts About Monkeys

December 14, 2015 | Joanne Kennell

Two monkeys playing on a tree branch.
Photo credit: Ted McGrath/Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Get ready to go bananas!

December 14th is World Monkey Day — a day where we celebrate and show love for all of our fellow monkeys and non-human primates.  Monkeys are very close to humans on the evolutionary scale — we share 99 percent of our DNA with chimpanzees.  Monkeys are also very intelligent and often demonstrate behaviors that resemble our own.  

Here are some surprising things you may not have known about our closest evolutionary relatives.

1. There are currently more than 260 known species of monkeys in the world.  These are categorized into two major types: the Old World monkeys of Africa and Asia and the New World monkeys of Central and South America.

2. Old and New World monkeys make up two of the three groups of simian primates — the third group is apes.  Most monkeys have tails, however, apes do not.

3. A group of monkeys is known as a tribe, troop or mission.

SEE ALSO: Apes Are Capable of Basic Speech

4. Yes, monkeys eat bananas, but they peel them and do not eat the skin.  Most monkeys eat both plants and animals, and some also eat dirt.  Yum?

5. Monkeys show affection to one another by grooming, cuddling, holding hands and lip smacking.  They show aggression by showing their teeth, yawning, head bobbing and jerking their head and shoulders forward.

6. The pygmy marmoset is the smallest monkey, weighing a quarter of a pound at adulthood.

The pygmy marmoset looks like a cute little ball of fur with a tiny face.
Photo credit: Day Donaldson/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

7. The male mandrill is the largest monkey, measuring approximately 3.3 feet long and weighing nearly 77 pounds full grown.

8. Howler monkeys are the loudest monkeys.  Their howls can be heard up to two miles away in a dense forest, and over three miles away in an open area.

9. Capuchin monkeys are considered the smartest New World monkey species.  They use and make tools to capture food, recognize themselves in mirrors, make their own insect repellent with crushed millipedes, and they also use different sounds to alert others to dangerous predators.

10. Tarsiers have enormous eyes — as large as its brain — that enables them to see at night.

Tarsiers are tiny monkey with enormous eyes
Photo credit: Stefan Munder/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

11. Spider monkeys get their name from their long arms and tails which allow them to easily swing from tree to tree.

12. Orangutans have the longest childhood of any animal in the world — babies nurse until they are six years old and stay with their mother for several years afterwards.

13. Bonobos do not fight — instead they have intercourse — including the same-sex variety.  They believe in having sex to resolve their disputes.  Make love, not war.

14. Rhesus macaques are extremely mischievous.  They have overrun villages in India — breaking into homes to steal food and high-diving off buildings to go swimming.

15. Chimpanzees are not only the closest living relatives to humans; they also use tools, have complex hierarchies, and can be taught sign language.

16. There are five endangered primate species including the Roloway monkey, the Javan slow loris, the brown spider monkey, the greater bamboo lemur and blood capuchin.

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