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Order Primates


Primates are an order of mammals that have been most successful in tropical and subtropical areas, where they pursue primarily arboreal modes of life. Some primates, such as baboons and chimpanzees, have become partly terrestrial. Humans are the only fully bipedal species. The principal anatomical features of primates involve adaptations for arboreal herbivory, including arboreal locomotion, manual dexterity, stereoscopic vision, and complex social behavior and communication. Primates share a suite of characters, including grasping hands and feet, digits with nails instead of claws, enlargement of the orbits and presence of a postorbital bar, and an enlarged brain and braincase. They are one of the most ancient orders, probably originating in the Cretaceous, though fossil record begins in the early Paleocene. The name primate means "the first animals," which reflects an early (incorrect) and anthropocentric bias that gives special importance to the group that contains humans.

Previous editions of The Mammals of Texas did not include a chapter on primates because, other than humans (Homo sapiens), there are no native members of this order in the state. The nearest native primates to Texas are spider monkeys (Ateles geoffroyi), which live in the tropical forests of southern Mexico. However, within the past 30 years, a feral population of Japanese macaques has become established in southern Texas, and for that reason we now include primates in this new edition.

Family Cercopithecidae

Old World Monkeys

This family includes 73 species in 11 genera that include golden monkeys, mangabeys, guenons, macaques, and baboons. They are distributed throughout much of Africa and southern Asia, including the Malay Archipelago. Among nonhominid primates, some cercopithecids have the greatest tolerance for cold climates where snows occur; some occupy high forests in Tibet and others live in northern Japan.

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From The Mammals of Texas, Seventh Edition by David J. Schmidly and Robert D. Bradley, copyright © 1994, 2004, 2016.  Courtesy of the University of Texas Press.

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