The branches shake and dark objects scatter across the treetops. If you are standing in the tropical forest you probably just heard monkeys over your head. Agile and acrobatic, monkeys easily leap through the forest but are often difficult to see and study. Most monkeys live in tropical regions in the Americas, Africa and Asia and spend much of their lives in treetops.
Like other primates, they have large brains, grasping hands and include species such as lemurs, apes, and humans. They are also very intelligent, and curious like all of us, have forward facing eyes for great depth perception.
Old World and New World Monkeys
Monkeys are basically divided into two main groups: Old World and New World Monkeys. These groups have been evolving independently and have adapted themselves to their habitat.
1. Old World Monkeys, such as mandrills and baboons are native to Africa and Asia. OId World monkeys live in a variety of different habitats, from grasslands to rainforests to snowy mountain peaks. The main physical features of the Old World Monkeys include:
- curved nostrils that are really close together;
- cheek pouches for storing food;
- sitting pads on their rears;
- tails that cannot grasp limbs and trees.
2. New World Monkeys live in South and Central America as well as Mexico, mostly in the trees of the tropical rainforests. In general, New World monkeys have:
- nostrils that are far apart;
- no cheek pouches;
- no sitting pads on their rears;
- prehensile tails, which can firmly grasp limbs and trees.
Monkeys communicate with hand gestures, facial expressions, and noises called vocalisations. Vocalisations can be quite complex and are often used to warn other monkeys or predators. Mother monkeys can distinguish the vocalisations of their own infants from other babies.
Staring is thought to be a threat in monkey communities. Staring is often followed by looking away if confrontation is to be avoided. Showing off teeth is often also interpreted as a threat. The video below, taken from a BBC documentary, shows the way monkeys communicate, as well how the leader of the group deals with interior conflict and threats.
Monkeys’ Habitat Threatened
Perhaps one of the greatest threat monkeys are facing today are not the fierce predators, but the fact they are losing ground, and consequently their habitat. Often, the building of the roads and massive deforestation destroys the areas monkeys use as homes. By focusing on environmental education and preserving habitats, as well as making laws to protect the monkeys, they may be spared from extinction.