A Thorough Look at Different Types of Monkeys: The New World

A Thorough Look at Different Types of Monkeys: The New World
Page content

Types of Monkeys

There are two categorizations of monkeys – New World and Old World primates. They have quite a few differences; for example their eating habits, infant care, habitat, physical features, etc. They are, however, of mere significance compared to how much they all have in common and what makes them unanimously of the same family. We will look at a few of the different types of monkeys from both worlds and we will examine their traits, physical distinctions and origins.

New World Monkeys

New World monkeys originate in the tropical rainforests of South America and Central America. They can be seen swinging from branches and treetops with their prehensile tails, something their Old World counterparts lack.

Here is a look at different types of monkeys among the New World category.

Spider Monkey

Spider monkeys are notoriously known for their heightened acrobatic skills, with their long arms and flexible, multifaceted tails. The spider monkey is assumed to be the most supple of all other monkeys. They are usually dark brown and black in color with small heads and potbellies.

They feed on fruits, leaves and seeds. A few of their more distinct traits are – excessive barking and screaming to other members of the pack, shouting at humans, throwing things, occasional aggressive behavior of males during mating season, sleeping in large groups in trees and favoritism to certain other species.

For example, spider monkeys can live among other primates such as the howler monkey quite peacefully. In their most natural habitat, spider monkeys can be seen swinging high among trees for very long distances in dense, wet, tropical forests commonly in southern Mexico extending to parts of Columbia.

Squirrel Monkey

squirrel monkey

Squirrel monkeys are very common in parts of the central and South American rainforest. They reside in the canopy layer of the forest mainly due to the fact that they are quite shy and timid animals. From time to time they trek to lower grounds in search of food.

In appearance, squirrel monkeys have dark brown/black hair on their head tops & white faces, hairy ears, are usually ash brown in overall color with yellowish orange extremities and have very long tails. They live in large groups, with as many as 300 monkeys in one area, yet they segregate themselves into clusters of adult males, adult females w/their young and adolescents.

Generally, these primates are introverted, non-aggressive and quiet; they are great athletes - agile climbers and speedy leapers.

Golden Lion Tamarin Monkey

Golden Lion Monkey

Golden lion tamarins, also known as golden marmoset are endangered species with an estimated wild population of a little over 1,000 individuals and a captive population of approximately 500 individuals. They live in high, densely tangled canopies of trees in the Atlantic coastal forests of Brazil.

The golden lion tamarin’s long lower incisors enable them to chew through tree trunks and branches and extract sap and gum. They also feed on insects, fruits and leaves. As its name would suggest, golden lion tamarin monkeys are reddish orange to golden brown in color. Its hair is longer and darker around the face, forming a mane on top of the head and on the cheeks and throat.

Unlike other New World primates, the golden lion tamarin’s tail is not prehensile but is very long. Fighting between groups is minimal; this is accomplished by scent marking. Overall these groups of monkeys are very cooperative with each other.

Howler Monkey

Howler Monkey

As their name suggests, howler monkeys are rumored to be the loudest animals in the jungle. Their

howler monkey

screams can be heard as far as 10 miles away under good acoustic conditions, but pragmatically at least 3 to 4 miles away. They live in the South American forest and are referred to as the laziest of all monkeys since they rarely leave their dwellings.

They also move and crawl around their nest, unlike the more agile squirrel and spider monkey, and they can be seen slowly climbing along the upper jungle branches and sitting for hours taking in the scenery. They eat very slowly as well; feeding on leaves, fruits, buds, flowers, nuts and occasionally bird eggs.

Howler monkeys are the largest among the different types of monkeys in the New World. They range in size from 56 to 92 cm, excluding their prehensile tail, which can be equally as long. Both male and female howler monkeys have trichromatic color vision – something other New World primates do not have. They have round, wide-set nostrils and short snouts. You will find this breed having many different color coats since there are nine known species.

Owl or Night Monkey

Owl Night Monkey

Owl monkeys are small, nocturnal primates for they have large owl-like eyes and always appear to be smiling. They can be found living in the south Panama region towards Paraguay and Northern Argentina. Most of their activity takes place at night - they eat at night feeding on fruits and leaves. During the daytime, they sleep together in small groups within hollowed-out trees, a typical behavior of owls.

Owl monkeys may appear earless, as their external ears are tiny and hard to see. Their coats are variations of brown fading into a yellowish orange color at the belly area. They have big brown eyes with exceptional vision allowing them to see perfectly at night, however, they have no color vision. They have as many as 50 different vocalizations, including gruff grunts, resonant grunts, screams, shrieks, low trills, moans, gulps, sneezing grunts and hoots piercing.

Other New World monkeys are the pygmy marmosets, tufted capuchins, white-faced saki & emperor tamarin.

Old World Monkeys

Old world monkeys originate in the tropical rainforests of Asia and Africa. Unlike the New World monkeys these primates do not have prehensile tails and some have no tail at all. A distinct feature that is unique to Old World monkeys are their versatile opposable thumbs.

Here is a look at the different types of monkeys among the Old World category.

Golden Snub-Nosed Monkey

golden snub nosed

Golden snub-nosed monkeys are originally from Asia – they can be found living in densely forested areas in Southern China and into Tibet, Vietnam and Myanmar. Snow occurs frequently within these areas, but the golden snub –nosed monkeys can withstand very cold temperatures better than any other non-human primate.

They all have thick, long fur to help withstand the cold, snowy high-altitude forest conditions in which they live. Males are predominantly bigger in size than the females. Their coat varies from different shades of brown gradually turning golden in certain areas on their bodies, especially the head.

Even though these primates are called snub-nosed monkeys, they don’t appear to have noses and instead have very tiny nostrils perched above their mouths. Golden snub-nosed monkeys are herbivores eating only leaves, needles, fruits and most popularly, lichens.

Drill Monkey

Drill Monkey

The drill monkey is an endangered primate, as they are quickly approaching extinction from being hunted and eaten. They can be found living in the equatorial regions of Africa. Their habitat has also been largely destroyed.

Drills are closely related to the baboon and mandrill family of Old World monkeys. They move on the ground and in the lower levels of trees and eat mostly fruit, herbs, roots and even small animals. In appearance, the adult male drill has a black face with a bit of red along the chin area and raised grooves on the nose. The rump is colored pink, mauve and blue.

These bright colors help his family follow him through the forest - female drills are less colorful. A single male will lead a group of up to 20 females and their young through the forest during nomadic journeys and is normally the father to all the juveniles in that group.

Mandrill Monkey


The Mandrill is the world’s largest species of monkey. They are found in tropical rainforests


and woodlands of southern Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea and Congo in Africa.

Olive-colored fur, a colorful face and bright rump are exclusive features of male mandrills. This coloration becomes more distinct and stronger with sexual maturity and excitement; females, however, have duller colors. Similarly to the drill monkey, the mandrill’s rump is also used to enhance visibility in dense woodland areas of the rainforest to aid in group movement.

The mandrill spends most of its time on the ground (unlike New World primates), and since they are omnivores, they acquire food by foraging for plants, insects and small animals scurrying on the ground. Although the Mandrill does not usually hunt larger prey, males have been observed to kill and consume small antelopes.

Patas Monkey

Patas Monkeys

The patas monkey is also known as the wadi monkey or hussar monkey and live in the semi-arid landscapes of Africa. They are quite slender with long arms and legs, which makes them great gymnasts and very fast runners. They are estimated to moving up to 34 mph on their feet making them the fastest among all the different types of monkeys.

Unlike most other primates, they prefer to sleep by themselves as opposed to in groups and even have their own tree in which they nap. They live in very large groups of up to 60 individuals of which there is one adult male. The females, however, dominate the pack.

The patas monkey maintains a lean diet by feeding on insects, tree gum, seeds and tubers. The color of their coat may vary among different species, but usually have a ginger brown mix of gray hair and a much paler shade of taupe on their bellies. The males are clearly identified by their blue scrotums.

DeBrazza’s Monkey


DeBrazza’s monkeys are locally known as swamp monkeys as they are often distributed in the wetlands of the Sub-Saharan parts of Africa. Their coat is dark grey with reddish brown hair, often on the back, their limbs and tail are black, with white at the rump area and they have a very distinct white beard. DeBrazza’s are shy, territorial monkeys and live in small social groups.

They work well together and protect each other in the pack. They are hardly ever harmed during an attack since they defend each other and are superb hiders. Their diet includes leaves and fruits since the DeBrazza’s monkeys are mainly frugivorous. These primates have a unique way of communicating and are often times seen doing numerous types of gesticulations with each other. These include incessant staring, staring with the mouth open, head bobbing, a fearful grimace, yawning and head shaking.

Other popular Old World monkeys include the spectacled langur, colobus, red colobus, roloway, douc langur, macaque, diana guenon, francois' langur and the hamadryas baboon.


There are 264 different types of monkeys ranging in size from as small as the pygmy marmoset (4 ounces) to as large as the male mandrill (77 pounds). Smaller monkeys belong to the New World group and larger ones to the Old World. Monkeys in general, are very intelligent animals. Scientists have been studying them for centuries and yet they surprise us everyday with their wit and sense of humor at times. While some monkeys make great pets, the larger range of species don’t for they can be very destructive, loud and stubborn. It takes a professional and someone with a lot of patience to rear these animals as domestic companions.


New World Monkeys - https://anthro.palomar.edu/primate/prim_5.htm

Old World Monkeys - https://anthro.palomar.edu/primate/prim_6.htm

New World & Old World Monkeys: A comparison - https://www.cabrillo.edu/~crsmith/monkeycomparisons.html

Rainforest Connection - https://rainforest.montclair.edu/pwebrf/rainforest/Animals/mammals/newworldmonkeys.html

Types of Monkeys, FactZoo.com - https://www.factzoo.com/mammals/types-of-monkeys.html

Spider Monkey, Honolulu Zoo -https://www.honoluluzoo.org/spider_monkey.htm

The Mandrill Monkey, Mandrill Sphinx - https://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/mandrill.html

Golden Lion Tamarin Conservation Programme - https://nationalzoo.si.edu/scbi/EndangeredSpecies/GLTProgram/Learn/BasicFacts.cfm

Image Credits

Spider Monkey, Wikimedia Commons/Anna_Cotta

Squirrel Monkey, WikimediaCommons/Julie_Langford

Golden Lion Tamarin Monkey, Wikimedia Commons/Jereon Kransen

Howler Monkey 1, Wikimedia Commons/Unknown

Howler Monkey 2, Wikimedia Commons/Steve

Owl Monkey, Wikimedia Commons/Dsasso

Golden Sub-Nosed Monkey, Wikimedia Commons/Jack Hynes

Drill Monkey, Flickr/Grendelkhan

Mandrill Monkey 1, Flickr/Sabbath Photography

Mandrill Monkey 2, Wikimedia Commons/Robert Young

Patas Monkey, Flickr/ Transpict

Debrazzas Monkey, Wikimedia Commons/Aaron Logan