Primates are a diverse order of mammals. They are divided into the strepsirrhines, which include the lemurs, galagos, and lorisids, and the haplorhines, which include the tarsiers and the simians (monkeys, apes and humans). Primates arose 85–55 million years ago first from small terrestrial mammals, which adapted to living in the trees of tropical forests: many primate characteristics represent adaptations to life in this challenging environment, including large brains, visual acuity, color vision, a shoulder girdle allowing a large degree of movement in the shoulder joint, and dextrous hands. Primates range in size from Madame Berthe's mouse lemur, which weighs 30 g (1 oz), to the eastern gorilla, weighing over 200 kg (440 lb). There are 376–522 species of living primates, depending on which classification is used. New primate species continue to be discovered: over 25 species were described in the 2000s, 36 in the 2010s, and three in the 2020s.
|Some primate families, from top to bottom: Daubentoniidae, Tarsiidae, Lemuridae, Lorisidae, Cebidae, Callitrichidae, Atelidae, Cercopithecidae, Hylobatidae, Hominidae|
|Range of the non-human primates (green)|
Primates have large brains (relative to body size) compared to other mammals, as well as an increased reliance on visual acuity at the expense of the sense of smell, which is the dominant sensory system in most mammals. These features are more developed in monkeys and apes, and noticeably less so in lorises and lemurs. Most primates also have opposable thumbs. Some primates, including gorillas, humans, and baboons, are primarily terrestrial rather than arboreal, but all species have adaptations for climbing trees. Arboreal locomotion techniques used include leaping from tree to tree and swinging between branches of trees (brachiation); terrestrial locomotion techniques include walking on two limbs (bipedalism) and modified walking on four limbs (knuckle-walking).
Primates are among the most social of animals, forming pairs or family groups, uni-male harems, and multi-male/multi-female groups. Non-human primates have at least four types of social systems, many defined by the amount of movement by adolescent females between groups. Primates have slower rates of development than other similarly sized mammals, reach maturity later, and have longer lifespans. Primates are also the most intelligent animals and non-human primates are recorded to use tools. They may communicate using facial and hand gestures, smells and vocalizations.
Close interactions between humans and non-human primates (NHPs) can create opportunities for the transmission of zoonotic diseases, especially virus diseases, including herpes, measles, ebola, rabies, and hepatitis. Thousands of non-human primates are used in research around the world because of their psychological and physiological similarity to humans. About 60% of primate species are threatened with extinction. Common threats include deforestation, forest fragmentation, monkey drives, and primate hunting for use in medicines, as pets, and for food. Large-scale tropical forest clearing for agriculture most threatens primates.