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|Old World monkeys|
Temporal range: Oligocene–Recent
|Olive baboon (Papio anubis)|
The Old World monkeys is the common English name for a family of primates known taxonomically as the Cercopithecidae. Twenty-four genera and 138 species are recognized, making it the largest primate family. Old World monkey genera include baboons (genus Papio) and macaques (genus Macaca)'. Common names for other Old World monkeys include the talapoin, guenon, colobus, douc (douc langur, genus Pygathrix), vervet, gelada, mangabey (a group of genera), langur, mandrill, surili (sp. Presbytis), patas, and proboscis monkey. Phylogenetically, they are more closely related to apes than to New World monkeys. They diverged from a common ancestor of New World monkeys around 55 million years ago, before South America and Africa separated about 50 million years ago.
The smallest Old World monkey is the talapoin, with a head and body 34–37 cm in length, and weighing between 0.7 and 1.3 kilograms. The largest is the male mandrill, at around 70 cm in length, and weighing up to 50 kilograms. Old World monkeys have a variety of facial features: some with snouts, some flat nosed; and many with coloration. Most have tails, but they are not prehensile.
Old World monkeys are native to Africa and Asia today, inhabiting numerous environments: tropical rain forests, savannas, shrublands, and mountainous terrain. They inhabited much of Europe in the past; today the only survivors in Europe are the Barbary macaques of Gibraltar. It is unknown whether they are native to Gilbraltar, or were brought by humans.
Some Old World monkeys are arboreal, such as the colobus monkeys; others are terrestrial, such as the baboons. Most are at least partially omnivorous, but all prefer plant matter, which forms the bulk of their diet. Most are highly opportunistic, primarily eating fruit, but also consuming almost any food items available, such as flowers, leaves, bulbs and rhizomes, insects, snails, small mammals, as well as garbage and handouts from humans.
Two subfamilies are recognized, the Cercopithecinae, which are mainly African, but include the diverse genus of macaques, which are Asian and North African, and the Colobinae, which includes most of the Asian genera, but also the African colobus monkeys.
The distinction between apes and monkeys is complicated by the traditional paraphyly of monkeys: Apes emerged as a sister group of Old World Monkeys in the catarrhines, which are a sister group of New World Monkeys. Therefore, cladistically, apes, catarrhines and related contemporary extinct groups, such as Parapithecidae, are monkeys as well, for any consistent definition of "monkey".
"Old World monkey" may also legitimately be taken to be meant to include all the catarrhines, including apes and extinct species such as Aegyptopithecus, in which case the apes, Cercopithecoidea and Aegyptopithecus and (under an even more expanded definition) even the Platyrrhini emerged within the Old World monkeys.
Old World monkeys are medium to large in size, and range from arboreal forms, such as the colobus monkeys, to fully terrestrial forms, such as the baboons. The smallest is the talapoin, with a head and body 34–37 cm in length, and weighing between 0.7 and 1.3 kilograms, while the largest is the male mandrill (the females of the species being significantly smaller), at around 70 cm in length, and weighing up to 50 kilograms.
The distinction of catarrhines from platyrrhines depends on the structure of the rhinarium, and the distinction of Old World monkeys from apes depends on dentition (the number of teeth is the same in both, but they are shaped differently). In platyrrhines, the nostrils face sideways, while in catarrhines, they face downward. Other distinctions include both a tubular ectotympanic (ear bone), and eight, not twelve, premolars in catarrhines, giving them a dental formula of: 18.104.22.168
Several Old World monkeys have anatomical oddities. For example, the colobus monkeys have stubs for thumbs to assist with their arboreal movement, the proboscis monkey has an extraordinary nose, while the snub-nosed monkeys have almost no nose at all.
The Old World monkeys are native to Africa and Asia today, inhabiting numerous environments: tropical rain forests, savannas, shrublands, and mountainous terrain. They inhabited much of Europe in the past; today the only survivors in Europe are the Barbary macaques of Gibraltar.
Most Old World monkeys are at least partially omnivorous, but all prefer plant matter, which forms the bulk of their diet. Leaf monkeys are the most vegetarian, subsisting primarily on leaves, and eating only a small number of insects, while the other species are highly opportunistic, primarily eating fruit, but also consuming almost any food items available, such as flowers, leaves, bulbs and rhizomes, insects, snails, and even small vertebrates. The Barbary macaque's diet consists mostly of leaves and roots, though it will also eat insects and uses cedar trees as a water source.
Gestation in the Old World monkeys lasts between five and seven months. Births are usually single, although, as with humans, twins occur occasionally. The young are born relatively well-developed, and are able to cling onto their mother's fur with their hands from birth. Compared with most other mammals, they take a long time to reach sexual maturity, with four to six years being typical of most species.
In most species, daughters remain with their mothers for life, so that the basic social group among Old World monkeys is a matrilineal troop. Males leave the group on reaching adolescence, and find a new troop to join. In many species, only a single adult male lives with each group, driving off all rivals, but others are more tolerant, establishing hierarchical relationships between dominant and subordinate males. Group sizes are highly variable, even within species, depending on the availability of food and other resources.
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