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Fascinating Facts about Primates Scramble Squares®
Primates are the highest order in the animal kingdom, ranking first in brain development. The primate order includes apes, monkeys, lemurs, and even humans, as well as extinct primate and human ancestors. Primates exhibit extraordinarily diverse behaviors and social systems, which allow them to adapt to many habitats within the tropics, ranging from savanna-woodland to rain forest. Some species, such as the Japanese macaque (Macaca fuscata), have even adapted to the snowy winters of the island of Hokkaido. The cognitive capacity of primates provides a window into the evolution of intelligence, providing deeper insights into the machinery that drives our own behavior and thought processes.

The primate order is distinguished from other mammalian groups by the following traits: an opposable thumb and big toe, which assists primates in grasping and manipulation behaviors; flat nails instead of claws, with dermatoglyphs (fingerprints) on fingers and toes; hind leg dominated locomotion; relatively smaller olfactory sensory system (smaller snouts) compared to other mammalian orders; increased reliance on sight, with larger eyes that are located toward the front of the face; smaller litter size, longer gestation times, and an extended period of juvenile development that requires an increased period of maternal care; relatively large brains; and a lesser number of teeth, with a maximum of two incisors. All primates do not have every one of these traits, but all primates have a set of traits that include some of these traits.

The primate order is generally subdivided into four groups, which are called the “prosimians,” “New World monkeys,” “Old World monkeys,” and the “apes. The Old World primates are generally larger than the New World primates and are divided into two super families: monkeys and apes. The apes represent a tailless group of large-bodied primates that developed during the warm, moist Miocene epoch. The classification Hominoidea includes both the lesser apes, such as the gibbon and siamang, and the great apes, which include the orangutan, gorilla, and chimp.

Primates are able to eat a wide range of foods, which include insects, animals, fruits, seeds, mature leaves, shoots/immature leaves and underground roots. Primates that emphasize the intake of ripe fruits and/or insects generally have simpler stomachs. Different feeding habits have a potentially profound impact upon the evolution of primate cognitive abilities. Diet and feeding ecology appears to have significantly influenced the evolution of primate intelligence. In other words, “what you eat, is what you are.”

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