What is the definition of primate?


Quick Answer

A primate is a mammal that is characterized by excellent eyesight, specialization of both hands and feet for grasping, and a highly developed brain. This classification includes humans, apes, monkeys, lorises, lemurs and related mammals. With the exception of humans, most primate species are tree-dwellers. All primates, including humans and the more terrestrial great apes and baboons, possess hands and hand-like feet that allow them to climb and swing from trees.

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Full Answer

With the exception of humans, who inhabit every continent, most primates live in tropical or subtropical regions of the Americas, Africa and Asia.

Many species of primates form complex social groups. Monkeys live in troops consisting of several females and one or more males. Gorillas tend to gather in groups of anywhere between two and 20. Chimpanzees form larger communities, typically between 20 and 100. Some primate groups, however, have more solitary natures. This includes orangutans, lemurs and galagos.

Many species of primates are sexually dimorphic and exhibit differences between males and females in body mass, canine tooth size and coloration. Compared to other mammals, primates reach maturity later but have longer life spans.

Due to their many similarities with the human race, primates are frequently used as test subjects for scientific experimentation.

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