For the ecclesiastical use of this term, see primate (religion)
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Olive Baboon
Scientific classification
Linnaeus, 1758

A primate is any member of the biological order Primates, the group that contains all lemurs, monkeys, apes, and humans. The English singular primate is a back-formation from the Latin name Primates, which itself was the plural of the Latin primas ("one of the first, excellent, noble"). Colin Groves lists about 350 species of primates in Primate Taxonomy.

All primates have five fingers (pentadactyly), a generalized dental pattern, and a primitive (unspecialized) body plan. Another distinguishing feature of primates is fingernails. Opposing thumbs are also a characteristic primate feature, but are not limited to this order; opossums, for example, also have opposing thumbs. In primates, the combination of opposing thumbs, short fingernails (rather than claws) and long, inward-closing fingers is a relic of the ancestral practice of brachiating through trees. Forward-facing color binocular vision was also useful for the brachiating ancestors of humans, particularly for finding and collecting food. All primates, even those that lack the features typical of other primates (like lorises), share eye orbit characteristics that distinguish them from other taxonomic orders.


Relative sizes

As the table below illustrates, in many primate species, the males are larger than the females. However this picture is incomplete. All but one of these are Old World species, and in this group the mating system is usually polygynous; sexual dimorphism is expected with this kind of social structure. As the table shows, sexual dimorphism is much less in the marmosets (New World) than in the other species listed, and this is characteristic of New World monkeys in comparison with the Old World monkeys and apes. This is because the New World monkeys generally form pair bonds.

Species Female Male
Gorilla 105 kg (231 lb) 205 kg (452 lb)
Human 62.5 kg (137.5 lb) 78.4 kg (172 lb)
Patas Monkey 5.5 kg (12 lb) 10 kg (22 lb)
Proboscis Monkey 9 kg (20 lb) 19 kg (42 lb)
Pygmy Marmoset 120 g (4.2 oz) 140 g (5 oz)

Legal status

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Human primates are recognized as persons and protected in law by the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights [1] ( and by all governments, though to varying degrees. Non-human primates are not classified as persons, which means their individual interests have no formal recognition or protection. (See category:famous apes, which lists some well-known individual apes.)

The Great Ape Project, founded by Australian philosopher Peter Singer, is campaigning to have the United Nations endorse its Declaration on Great Apes, which would extend to chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, and orang-utans the protection of three basic interests: the right to life, the protection of individual liberty, and the prohibition of torture. [2] (

Thousands of non-human primates are used every year around the world in scientific experiments because of their psychological and physiological similarity to humans. The species most commonly used are chimpanzees, baboons, marmosets, macaques and African green monkeys. In the European Union, around 10,000 were used in 2004. In 2003, 4,799 experiments were conducted on 3,073 non-human primates in the UK alone. [3] ( As of 2004, 3,100 non-human great apes were living in captivity in the United States, in zoos, circuses, and laboratories, 1,280 of them being used in experiments. [4] (

Classification and evolution

The Primate order lies in a tight clustering of related orders (the Euarchontoglires) within the Eutheria, a subclass of Mammalia. Recent molecular genetic research on primates, flying lemurs, and tree shrews has shown that the two species of flying lemur (Dermoptera) are more closely related to the primates than the tree shrews of the order Scandentia, even though the tree shrews were at one time considered primates. These three orders make up the Euarchonta clade. This clade combines with the Glires clade (made up of the Rodentia and Lagomorpha) to form the Euarchontoglires clade. Variously, both Euarchonta and Euarchontoglires are ranked as superorders. Also, some scientists consider Dermoptera a suborder of Primates and call the "true" primates the suborder Euprimates.

    |    |--rodents (Rodentia)
    |    \--rabbits, hares, pikas (Lagomorpha)
         |--tree shrews (Scandentia)
              |--flying lemurs (Dermoptera)
              \--primates (Primates)

In modern, cladistic reckonings, the Primate order is also a true clade. The suborder Strepsirrhini, the "wet-nosed" primates, split off from the primitive primate line about 63 million years ago. The seven strepsirhine families are the four related lemur families and the three remaining families that include the lorises, the Aye-aye, the galagos, and the pottos. Some classification schemes wrap the Lepilemuridae into the Lemuridae and the Galagidae into the Lorisidae, yielding a three-two family split instead of the four-three split as presented here.

The Aye-aye is difficult to place in Strepsirrhini. Its family, Daubentoniidae, could be a lemuriform primate and its ancestors split from lemur line more recently than the lemurs and lorises split, about 50 mya. Otherwise it is sister to all of the other strepsirrhines, in which case in evolved away from the main strepsirrhine line between 50 and 63 mya.

The suborder Haplorrhini, the "dry-nosed" primates, is composed of two sister clades. The prosimian tarsiers in family Tarsiidae (monotypic in its own infraorder Tarsiiformes), represent the most primitive division at about 58 mya. The Simiiformes contain the two unranked clades the New World monkeys in one, and the Old World monkeys, humans and the other apes in the other. This division happened about 40 mya.

In older classifications, the Primates were divided into two superfamilies: Prosimii and Anthropoidea. The Prosimii included all of the prosimians: all of Strepsirrhini plus the tarsiers. The Anthropoidea contained all of the simians.


Template:Commonscat Template:Dichotomouskey


Placentalia: Xenarthra | Dermoptera | Desmostylia | Scandentia | Primates | Rodentia | Lagomorpha | Insectivora | Chiroptera | Pholidota | Carnivora | Perissodactyla | Artiodactyla | Cetacea | Afrosoricida | Macroscelidea | Tubulidentata | Hyracoidea | Proboscidea | Sirenia

Marsupialia: Didelphimorphia | Paucituberculata | Microbiotheria | Dasyuromorphia | Peramelemorphia | Notoryctemorphia | Diprotodontia


ca:Primats cs:Primti da:Primater de:Primaten es:Primate eo:Primatoj fr:Primates it:Primates la:Primates lt:Primatas li:Aapachtege nl:Primates ja:サル目 pl:Naczelne pt:Primatas ru:Приматы sk:Primty zh:灵长目


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