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Encyclopedia > Primates
For the ecclesiastical use of this term, see primate (religion)
Primates

Olive Baboon
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Primates
Linnaeus, 1758
Families

A primate is any member of the biological order Primates, the group that contains all lemurs, monkeys, and apes, including humans. The English singular primate is a back-formation from the Latin name Primates, which itself was the plural of the Latin primas ("one of the first, excellent, noble"). Colin Groves lists about 350 species of primates in Primate Taxonomy.


All primates have five fingers (pentadactyly), a generalized dental pattern, and a primitive (unspecialized) body plan. Another distinguishing feature of primates is fingernails. Opposing thumbs are also a characteristic primate feature, but are not limited to this order; opossums, for example, also have opposing thumbs. In primates, the combination of opposing thumbs, short fingernails (rather than claws) and long, inward-closing fingers is a relic of the ancestral practice of brachiating through trees. Forward-facing color binocular vision was also useful for the brachiating ancestors of humans, particularly for finding and collecting food. All primates, even those that lack the features typical of other primates (like lorises), share eye orbit characteristics that distinguish them from other taxonomic orders.


As the table below illustrates, in many primate species, the males are larger than the females. However this picture is incomplete. All but one of these are Old World species, and in this group the mating system is usually polygynous; sexual dimorphism is expected with this kind of social structure. As the table shows, sexual dimorphism is much less in the marmosets (New World) than in the other species listed, and this is characteristic of New World monkeys in comparison with the Old World monkeys and apes. This is because the New World monkeys generally form pair bonds.

Species Female Male
Gorilla 105 kg (231 lb) 205 kg (452 lb)
Human 62.5 kg (137.5 lb) 78.4 kg (172 lb)
Patas Monkey 5.5 kg (12 lb) 10 kg (22 lb)
Proboscis Monkey 9 kg (20 lb) 19 kg (42 lb)
Pygmy Marmoset 120 g (4.2 oz) 140 g (5 oz)

Classification and evolution

The Primate order lies in a tight clustering of related orders (the Euarchontoglires) within the Eutheria, a subclass of Mammalia. Recent molecular genetic research on primates, flying lemurs, and tree shrews has shown that the two species of flying lemur (Dermoptera) are more closely related to the primates than the tree shrews of the order Scandentia, even though the tree shrews were at one time considered primates. These three orders make up the Euarchonta clade. This clade combines with the Glires clade (made up of the Rodentia and Lagomorpha) to form the Euarchontoglires clade. Variously, both Euarchonta and Euarchontoglires are ranked as superorders.

 Euarchontoglires |--Glires | |--rodents (Rodentia) | |--rabbits, hares, pikas (Lagomorpha) \--Euarchonta |--tree shrews (Scandentia) \--N.N. |--flying lemurs (Dermoptera) \--primates (Primates) 

In modern, cladistic reckonings, the Primate order is also a true clade. The suborder Strepsirrhini, the "wet-nosed" primates, split off from the primitive primate line about 63 million years ago. The seven strepsirhine families are the four related lemur families and the three remaining families that include the lorises, the Aye-aye, the galagos, and the pottos. Some classification schemes wrap the Megaladapidae into the Lemuridae and the Galagonidae into the Loridae, yielding a three-two family split instead of the four-three split as presented here.


The Aye-aye is difficult to place in Strepsirrhini. Its family, Chiromyiformes, could be a lemuriform primate and its ancestors split from lemur line more recently than the lemurs and lorises split, about 50 mya. Otherwise it is sister to all of the other strepsirrhines, in which case in evolved away from the main strepsirrhine line between 50 and 63 mya.


The suborder Haplorhini, the "dry-nosed" primates, is composed of two sister clades. The prosimian tarsiers in family Tarsiidae (monotypic in its own infraorder Tarsiiformes), represent the most primitive division at about 58 mya. The Simiiformes contain the two unranked clades the New World monkeys in one, and the Old World monkeys, humans and the other apes in the other. This division happened about 40 mya.


In older classifications, the Primates were divided into two superfamilies: Prosimii and Anthropoidea. The Prosimii included all of the prosimians: all of Strepsirrhini plus the tarsiers. The Anthropoidea contained all of the simians.

References

Commons:Category
Wikimedia Commons has multimedia related to:
Primates
  • Primate Taxonomy (Smithsonian Institute Press, 2001), Colin Groves (ISBN 156098872X)
  • Primates in Question (Smithsonian Institute Press, 2003), Robert W. Shumaker & Benjamin B. Beck (ISBN 1-58834-176-3)
Mammals
Monotremata

Placentalia: Xenarthra | Dermoptera | Desmostylia | Scandentia | Primates | Rodentia | Lagomorpha | Insectivora | Chiroptera | Pholidota | Carnivora | Perissodactyla | Artiodactyla | Cetacea | Afrosoricida | Macroscelidea | Tubulidentata | Hyracoidea | Proboscidea | Sirenia

Marsupialia: Didelphimorphia | Paucituberculata | Microbiotheria | Dasyuromorphia | Peramelemorphia | Notoryctemorphia | Diprotodontia


  Results from FactBites:
 
Primate - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (1955 words)
In primates, the combination of opposing thumbs, short fingernails (rather than claws) and long, inward-closing fingers is a relic of the ancestral practice of brachiating through trees.
Primates live in a diverse number of forested habitats, including rain forests, mangrove forests, and mountain forests to altitudes of over 3000 m.
Thousands of primates are used every year around the world in scientific experiments because of their psychological and physiological similarity to humans.
Primate (religion) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (1195 words)
In the Orthodox churches, Primate is often used in the general sense of the head of an autocephalous or autonomous church, but not as a specific title.
In England, however, the metropolitans of the two provinces of Canterbury and York, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York, are Primate of All England and Primate of England respectively.
In the Western Church, a Primate is an archbishop (or rarely a suffragan or exempt bishop) of a see (called a primas) which confers precedence over the other bishops of his own province, or over a number of provinces (possibly part of a province), such as a 'national' church in (historical) political/cultural terms.
  More results at FactBites »

 
 

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