What's The Difference Between Monkey and Ape?

What's The Difference Between Monkey and Ape?

Posted by Leanne Sturrock on Dec 12, 2016

We’ve all been there – talking excitedly about our favourite animals with our friends, giddily sharing facts and bits of infomation…no? Just me, then.

Okay, while not all of us are as vocal as the next guy when it comes to chattering about our favourite animals, one thing I can say we’ve all been guilty of is mixing up what is and isn’t a monkey. While apes and monkeys are both primates, often hanging out in trees and just being generally cool, there are actually a huge amount of differences between these two types of animal and their specific species. It’s with this that The Great Projects wants to share with you all the ways in which our favourite fuzzy friends are set apart. Hey, if it saves one of us from embarrassing ourselves in next week’s pub quiz…

  • Apes don’t have tails, whereas monkeys do – though there are exceptions to this supposed rule. Take, for example, the Barbary macaque - considered to be a monkey, these animals are in fact tailless! An easier way to tell the difference is that most monkeys have tails, whereas no single ape has one.
  • Gorillas, chimpanzees, orangutans and gibbons are much more like us – Unlike the more genetically different monkey, it has been said that apes are much more like us human beings. With their basic body structure, similar behavioural patterns and - not to brag - high level of intelligence, these primates represent us quite a bit. In fact, the chimpanzee is the human’s closest living relative and has been observed using simple tools to an extensive level, and they even seem to have some kind of societal culture.
  • Apes are more competent in learning – at least, in terms of similarly useful human behaviours. Across the board, this type of primate has been recorded as exhibiting extensive language capability, however are unable physiologically to produce speech. That said, each species can be taught how to confidently use sign language, as well as computer keyboards...and have even been proven to develop their own words in these languages, which really does represent impressive cognitive ability!

Gorilla

  • Monkeys are built almost solely for life in the trees, whereas apes are not. The spindly, spritely monkey is much better suited to life off of the ground, moving around in the trees and avoiding larger predators in this way. Apes, however, have the best of both worlds and can survive a little easier on either terrain. It should also be noted that, due to their lack of shoulder definition, monkey skeletons are actually more similar to that of a pouncing cat than either mine or yours, allowing them to get around much more efficiently without bringing too much attention to themselves.
  • You’ll only find moneys in South America – no apes allowed! – While both species can be found on both African and Asian terrains, it is only the monkey that you’ll find living wild in South America. Namely: the spider monkey, the white-headed capuchin, the tamarin and the Central American squirrel monkey.

Funny monkey

  • Apes are more reliant on senses such as vision, whereas monkeys rely more on smell – though this in itself isn’t such an obvious physical trait, the keener eyed among us might spot that apes have shorter, broader noses than their keenly-whiffing cousins.
  • There are fewer species of ape, so these are the easiest ones to learn! – Despite the little rule we gave you at the top of this list, you may just find it easier to get to grips with the few primates that fall into the ape category. If it’s not a gorilla, gibbon, orangutan or gimp…it’s probably a monkey. (Bonobos, siamangs and even humans are the other apes to add to that little list!) There are many more species of monkey to get to grips with, so like we mentioned before: keep your eyes peeled for a tail, and then you'll know you've spotted a monkey!

Chimpanzee

Want to learn more about monkeys? Or have you been left awe-inspired by the apes? Get to know your distant relatives on one of our projects. These animals are becoming increasingly endangered in today's world, so we must do our part to keep them around for generations to come.


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