Gorilla Monkey

Is A Gorilla A Monkey?

The short answer is no. A look at the order of primates shows the gorilla to be a member of the family of apes. Gorillas are, from a biological perspective, more closely related to humans than to any of the species of monkeys.

It may be easy to think if a gorilla as being an over sized monkey, or look at some of the common characteristics they share with orangutans and chimpanzees. The question, "is a gorilla a monkey" would really appear to be a legitimate one, given the similarities orangutans and chimps seem to have with both gorillas and monkeys. It should be noted however, that both orangutans and chimpanzees are also members of the ape family, and are not monkeys. Although it may not seem so, the differences between monkeys and apes or gorillas are just as great, and in fact greater than those between apes and humans.

The monkey family is a very large one in terms of both population and the number of species involved. There are two types of monkey, the Old World monkey, found in Africa and southern Asia, and the New World monkey, found in South and Central America, and primarily in the rain forests of the Amazon Basin. Apes and gorillas are found in far fewer numbers and consist of only a few different species and much a lower total number (with the exception of humans). They are not found outside of Africa except for a band of apes, the Barbary apes, which inhabit Gibraltar on the southwestern tip of Spain.

Going Down The Chain - Gorillas belong to the primates order, as do monkeys. The primates range in size from the mouse-sized Mouse Lemur, which weighs an impressive one ounce, to the 400 pound gorilla (the 800 pound gorilla is a figure of speech). Humans also belong to the order of primates. Going down the chain, the next level is the simians, which make up monkeys and apes. Here things split off, the monkeys going one way, and as noted, branching further into New World and Old World monkeys, the apes going another. The branch the apes take is called the super family of hominoids. The hominoids in turn are made up of two families, the lesser apes or gibbons, which consist of 13 different species, and the apes, made up of 7 species, including homo sapiens, the human.

Not All in the Family - Is a gorilla a monkey? If one were to ask the question "is a gorilla a human?" the answer would most definitely be a no, or at least we would like to think so. Gorillas and humans are different species of the same family, but gorillas (and the other apes) are not in the same family as the monkey. What is shared is what is shared among most members of the primate family, a level of intelligence higher than found in most other animals, the ability to walk on two legs and, as far as New World monkeys are concerned, the ability to swing from trees and grasp things with their tails (Old World monkeys don't have prehensile or grasping tails, and apes don't have tails at all). Gorillas, monkeys and other primates generally take longer to mature than other animals, generally have a greater instinct for play, and in some cases an instinct for making and using tools.

There is even a bit of trivia which suggests some linkage between the gorilla or ape and the primitive human, the bony ridge along the forehead just above the eyebrows. While we tend to equate that feature with a lower level of intelligence, it serves a useful purpose. It gives strength and stability to the skull and jawbones when cracking bones or hard nuts between the teeth. In spite of many seeming similarities, a gorilla is no more a monkey than a cat is a dog.

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