Primates are  mammals of the order Primates from the Latin: "prime, first rank”). In taxonomy, primates include two distinct lineages, 

  • strepsirrhines and 
  • haplorhines.

Primates arose from ancestors that lived in the trees of tropical forests; many primate characteristics represent adaptations to life in this challenging three-dimensional environment. Most primate species remain at least partly arboreal.


Ring-tailed Lemur is member of the Strepsirrhi lineage. image: Rvb /wikipedia

  • Suborder Strepsirrhini: lemurs, galagos and lorisids
    • Infraorder Lemuriformes[a]
      • Superfamily Lemuroidea
        • Family Cheirogaleidae: dwarf lemurs and mouse-lemurs (34 species)
        • Family Daubentoniidae: aye-aye (one species)
        • Family Lemuridae: ring-tailed lemur and allies (21 species)
        • Family Lepilemuridae: sportive lemurs (26 species)
        • Family Indriidae: woolly lemurs and allies (19 species)
      • Superfamily Lorisoidea
      • Family Lorisidae: lorisids (14 species)
      • Family Galagidae: galagos (19 species)

[a] = it’s sort of complicated but another popular alternative taxonomy places the lorisoids in their own infraorder, Lorisiformes.

  • Suborder Haplorhini: tarsiers, monkeys and apes
    • Infraorder Tarsiiformes
      • Family Tarsiidae: tarsiers (11 species)
    • Infraorder Simiiformes (or Anthropoidea)
      • Parvorder Platyrrhini: New World monkeys
        • Family Callitrichidae: marmosets and tamarins (42 species)
        • Family Cebidae: capuchins and squirrel monkeys (14 species)
        • Family Aotidae: night or owl monkeys (douroucoulis) (11 species)
        • Family Pitheciidae: titis, sakis and uakaris (43 species)
        • Family Atelidae: howler, spider, woolly spider and woolly monkeys (29 species)
    • Parvorder Catarrhini
      • Superfamily Cercopithecoidea
        • Family Cercopithecidae: Old World monkeys (138 species)
    • Superfamily Hominoidea
      • Family Hylobatidae: gibbons or "lesser apes" (17 species)
      • Family Hominidae: great apes, including humans (7 species)


A tarsier is a member of haplorrhine primates lineage. image: Jasper Greek Golangco /wikipedia

What are primates generally like?

Considered generalist mammals, primates exhibit a wide range of characteristics. Some primates (including some great apes and baboons) are primarily terrestrial rather than arboreal, but all species possess adaptations for climbing trees. 

How do they move?

Locomotion techniques used include leaping from tree to tree, walking on two or four limbs, knuckle-walking, and swinging between branches of trees (brachiation). Most also have opposable thumbs and some have prehensile tails.

Brain size and vision

Primates are characterized by large brains relative to other mammals, as well as an increased reliance on stereoscopic vision at the expense of smell, the dominant sensory system in most mammals. 

These features are more developed in monkeys and apes and noticeably less so in lorises and lemurs. Three-color vision has developed in some primates. 

Life  styles  and span compared with other mammals

Many species are sexually dimorphic; differences include body mass, canine tooth size, and coloration. Primates have slower rates of development than other similarly sized mammals and reach maturity later, but have longer lifespans. Depending on the species, adults may live in solitude, in mated pairs, or in groups of up to hundreds of members.

Source adapted from: Primate. (2016, January 31). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 06:32, February 17, 2016, from