Overall, the world has some 200 species and types of monkeys when answering the question how many different types of monkeys are there.
However, the species count was likely more in ancient times when human development was not as pronounced as it is today. Some are as small as four ounces and others are as big as 77 pounds.
The various monkey breeds are heavily studied by physical anthropologists and biologists, particularly in how types of monkeys diverged into their two major groups today.
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Common Knowledge Versus Science
Most people think of the creatures they see at the zoo with the mention of what types of monkeys are there. Because many municipal facilities put these animals together in the same part of the zoo park, it’s very easy for the average person to think they all come from the same area covered with jungles and trees.
In reality, the world’s monkey breeds fall into two major groups: Old World and New World. The Old World monkeys are those that come from Africa and Asia. They spend a lot of time on the ground although may species are quite capable of climbing if they need to.
New World monkeys all come from Central and South America and they are almost all tree-dwelling for most of their lives. They only come down to the ground either for food or out of fear trying to hide and find shelter.
Physical Variation Separates Monkey Types
There are lots of physical differences in the list of monkeys living today. Old World monkeys have tails but they cannot use them functionally. Another big distinction involves the tail. New World monkeys are very adept at climbing or hanging with their tails.
For example, Old World monkeys have an opposable thumb, much like humans.
However, their cross-ocean cousins do not. This diversity in the different breeds of monkeys shows a great amount of growth in the overall collection of monkeys worldwide, which also gives biologists plenty of issues to study. Here are some of the better-known species from both groups.
The Capuchin Monkey
From the monkey Cebinae family, the Capuchin is a New World species that is most recognizable as the monkey the pirate, streetcorner peddler or circus musician has for a pet. This little fellow is quite gregarious, big on showing its mouth, and likes to take off with shiny things according to Hollywood. The species has been prized as a pet but in practice it can be an actual pain to have or try to domesticate.
These types of monkeys are extremely messy, fussy and downright aggressive. They take a considerable amount of training just to have around humans without someone getting bit or scratched.
In terms of their natural home, the Capuchin has a wide range, being found in both Central and South America, and the tend to favor lower wetlands versus the mountainous areas. They are also quite fond of the coastal areas where the temperature tends to be lower from the midday heat.
Surprisingly, some versions of the Capuchin favor the drier inland parts on the Pacific side where there is plenty of forest to hide in.
See Related: Amur Leopard
In the New World, this species is also known as the Zaris. Small in size, they only reach about eight inches in height at full adulthood. They are extremely good climbers and use claws and very grabby or tactile hair on their wrists to hold onto things.
No surprise, tree-dwelling is part of their life, and the marmoset is almost never found on the ground. Marmosets tend to be restricted to South America, and many locals have them as pets in the rural parts of the region. They are extremely active at night, chasing insects for a diet bonus when they are not feasting on fruit plant leaves.
The Tamarin Monkey
Also a small monkey species from the New World, these animals are part of the Callitrichidae family. They are most recognizable by a facial hair feature that makes them look like they have an extended mustache from the 1800s. They get to be a about 13 to 30 cm in length as adults, and also find the Central and South American jungles as home.
Easily eating anything in sight smaller than them, Tamarins are omnivores, gobbling up bugs, fruit, amphibians, and even bird eggs given the chance.
See Related: King Cobra
The Lion Tamarin
A related species to the monkey breeds above, The Lion Tamarin appears with a bright orange-gold fur. They tend to be bigger, averaging 30 cm in length and weight far more. Using both fingers and claws, they are quite adept at moving around on branches and digging out insects for food.
They supplement their insect diet with fruit, small amphibians and lizards, and they even go after snakes when possible. Lion Tamarins are extremely rare, however, and appear on a number of endangered species lists in multiple countries.
The Proboscis Monkey
Like something out of a bad cartoonist’s joke, the Proboscis monkey has a very noticeable and ugly looking nasal feature not found in other types of monkeys.
Technically titled long-nosed, the species is from the Old World monkey families and is most commonly found in Southeast Asia, particularly in Borneo. They are not aggressive and are frequently found in the same tree locations as Orangutans.
Size-wise, the Probiscis monkey holds the title as the largest monkey type in Asia among all the species in the region. They can reach up to 76 cm in length and typically weigh as much as 12 kilograms. The notable noses tend to hang off the face and look comical along with the animal’s pot belly.
As a group the females take charge and generally hold title or create their own groups as breakaways from their prior, early pack.
See Related: Przewalski’s Horse
Long known on the plains of Africa, the Baboon has had a long history in mankind’s records, dating back as far as the ancient Egyptians at least. Definitely and Old World monkey species, the Baboon is part of the Papio family and is a ground scavenger.
They are most common in both Saudi Arabia as well as Africa in the drier parts. They are made of up five different types, with the Mandrill being the largest. Baboons are particularly aggressive, move in packs, tend to be omnivores and have a vicious set of teeth and claws with a thick fur as a defense.
Baboons are commonly found in savannahs, hills and open woodlands. They are rarely found in jungles. Most of their diet tends to be insects, fruit, scavenge, small animals, small birds and even fish when they get a chance.
Baboons have even been known to take down an antelope if possible as they are voracious meat eaters when the opportunity presents itself. The various Baboon species tend to run anywhere from 30 to 45 years in age and they have an ability to learn skills and behavior.
Some in captivity have been taught to read. Any climate that is similar to a savannah will do, and a Baboon colony even thrives in Texas of all places thanks to being transplanted.
The Mandrill, unlike its smaller cousins, definitely likes to inhabit wet jungles and deeper Africa. This species can be found in the Congo, Cameroon and Gabon. The also move around in large groups, finding protection in numbers. They eat bugs as well as plants and anything small enough to catch.
The species is very famous and tends to be representative of all Baboons because their colorful flared faces and hindquarters on the males.
See Related: African Elephant
The Spider Monkey
A New World wonder, the Spider monkey is a flying marvel of the high part of the South American jungles. Its arms and legs are matches by an extra long tail, and the species spends an incredible amount of time hanging upside down in a normal day of activities.
Dubbed Spider monkeys because they have an amazing ability to climb, these creatures swing and jump with ease, defying gravity and almost never touching the ground.
See Related: Arabian Oryx
A grey, white fur monkey native to Africa, these Old World monkeys roam the ground and stones on a regular basis looking for whatever might be edible. Fruit and bugs are high on the menu, but they have no problem stealing interesting human food given the chance to do so.
They mostly appear in Southern Africa and live in small packs. The adults have a distinct black face and tail while the rest of the body is covered in lighter fur. Finding homes in small bushes and trees, they are fast scramblers and scavenge just about anything interesting on the ground always looking for another meal.
These monkeys were regularly used as lab animals in the 1950s and 1960s, and close examination of black and white documentary films of psychology experiments will show many subjects were in fact baby Vervets.
See Related: Asian Lion
The Rhesus Macaque
Referred to as the Rhesus for short, the Rhesus Macaque looks a bit like a white fur cousin of a Baboon on facial inspection. This type of monkey is a ground-dwelling Old World species that has a wide range and lives about 25 years.
Unfortunately, it’s also an endangered species due to development. Rhesus can be found as far east as China and as far south as India. Many people have come across them traveling in those regions. However, because some were taken as pets, they have exploded in number as an invasive species in Florida of all places.
The species has been well-known in the science world because its DNA is very close to that of humans. However, it’s also a potential risk incubator for new viruses that can cross over and affect humans, so biologists and virology scientists spend a lot of time tracking the species, particularly in Asia, to make sure it doesn’t create a new viral outbreak.
See Related: Malayan Tiger
Unlike Hollywood’s depiction, the common monkey most people in the West are familiar with is not the Chimpanzee. Even in captivity, Chimps tend to be too aggressive and dangerous; Bonobos are in fact what Hollywood used, calling them Chimpanzees in various scripts. They are in fact a small type of ape.
The Chimpanzee is indigenous to the jungle parts of Africa, and is regular found in regions like the Congo. They tend to live in packs numbering 15 to 20, and they are very territorial, competing with other packs for food and roaming grounds. Any disputes within the group and outside is often handled with violence. Chimpanzees are officially an endangered species, only hitting a maximum of 300,000 worldwide.
In recent years Chimpanzees have gained a significant amount of notoriety with captive specimens attacking their caretakers or escaping and attacking people.
Despite their size, Chimpanzees are incredibly strong and quite capable of overpowering and human quickly. Unlike the movies, they are not gentle by nature and trained scientists and zookeepers care for them with extreme caution and awareness.
An odd rarity in the Old World monkey families, the Gibbon spends most of its time in the trees flying from branch to branch. They are probably the Old World’s equivalent of the Spider monkey. Gibbons have a wide range of territory in terms of where they are found, spanning from Southern China southward to Indonesia and as far west as northern India.
While Gibbons to spend a lot of time in the trees they can move on the ground and can even walk on their hind feet with speed. The most notable feature of Gibbon even before being seen is its voice. Their hoot is incredibly loud and can be heard for up to a mile away. Development and deforestation are their biggest enemy and threat, making Gibbons endangered.
See Related: Congo Peafowl
The Japanese Macaque
Probably most famous for being the hot spa sitting monkey in snowy winter, these monkeys are native to Japan and tend to be found in the mountain areas of the Asian islands.
They do in fact, just like the photos of them in the wild, enjoy sitting in hot natural geothermal waters in winter, and their thick fur makes them look like these monkeys are wearing a parka in the snow.
The Japanese Macaque has been a regular neighbor of Buddhist temples in Japan and were frequently reflected in religious history and lore of the country versus other types of monkeys.