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Primates and Characteristics

Human Biology (Year 12) - Hominid Evolution

Ben Whitten

What are primates?

Primates are animals that are classified into the order Primate, and they include:

  • Humans

  • Apes

  • Old world monkeys

  • New world monkeys

  • Tarsiers

  • Lorises

  • Lemurs

What are the characteristics of primates?

Body: Primates' bodies are not specialised for any particular environment.

Limbs: Generally unspecialised.

Hands/feet: Both are pentadactyl (five fingers or toes), they have nails as opposed to claws, they have grasping fingers and toes with friction ridges for gripping, and the first digit is opposable (opposable thumbs).

Eyes: Forward facing for three-dimensional (stereoscopic) vision, and most are able to distinguish colour.

Sense of smell: Very poor in comparison to other animals, for example, a dog.

Teeth: Four incisors in both the upper and lower jaw.

Brain: Large and complex; cerebrum size increases as primates become more highly evolved.

Reproduction: Not restricted to a breeding season; they have a rhythmical sexual cycle. They usually only produce one offspring at a time, and have a long period of parental care for offspring.

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