Chapter Summary

Focus of the chapter:

  • What is a primate?
  • Primates are arboreally adapted.
  • Primates have dietary plasticity.
  • Primates are defined by a suite of traits that separate them from other mammals.

Primates possess a versatile skeletal structure suited to arboreal life. They have opposable thumbs for grasping, enhanced touch and vision, and their dental variation allows for a varied diet. Primates rely less on smell and hearing than other mammals, and extensive social relationships and behaviors are combined with high parental investment in young.

The wide variation in primate species can be divided into four groups: prosimians, New World monkeys, Old World monkeys, and apes. Humans are grouped with the apes, though some debate exists over how to cluster the apes within the clade. Anatomical and genetic traits are utilized in classification systems today.