Compare and Contrast Essay on Primates and Mammals

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1709 Words
Date:  2022-04-15


Primates are mammals of the order Primates that arose from ancestors that lived on trees, and through years of adaption to their environment, have evolved into different species. A primate is a mammal characterized by enlarged cerebral features, advanced binocular vision, and specialization of the limbs to grasping. Humans, apes, monkeys and in its other forms are included in the category of primates. Primates are a group of mammals that stand out because of their advanced intelligence. Primates are also identified by their refined use of their hands and feet, large brain, and reduced snout. Their distinct physical features include the opposable thumb, fingernails, binocular vision, 32 teeth, and a single pair of mammary glands. Within the primates, they have different features such as varying cognitive abilities and behavioral traits. Humans possess the most advanced cognitive abilities followed by the apes and finally monkeys.

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Primates have distinct features that make them stand out from other mammals. One of the outstanding features is the large brains that the primates have compared to the other mammals. The enlarged brain allows the primates to process information and make informed decisions (Rafferty 97). The primates would be able to rationalize situations and act in a determined way. On the other hand, other mammals react to due to the chemical activity of their bodies. The chemical reaction within their bodies makes them react on instinct. Unlike other mammals, primates make decisions based on how the brain has processed the information in their surroundings. Primates are unique among the mammals because of their larger brains. In addition to this distinct feature, primates also have opposable thumbs (Oxnard 1130). Primates act differently in their surroundings due to their unique features. The opposable thumbs allow the primates to pick up objects and hold on to trees, for example.

Primates stand out from their mammal counterparts with the difference in brain capacity and opposable thumbs. Another difference between primates and mammals is that other mammals rely more on smell than sight to interact. Conversely, primates interact with their environment dependent more on sight than smell (Oxnard 1131). They use vision to identify and distinguish objects in their environment. Their vision has a greater depth of field compared to other mammals. Primates have color vision while other mammals have eyes that are color blind. The primates are different to other mammals in the way that they conduct themselves in their environments. Other mammals depend more on their sense of smell than sight to tell items apart. Additionally, other mammals do not have opposable thumbs, and this makes them unable to hold objects. Therefore, other mammals move around without good color vision and dependent on their sense of smell (Oxnard 1130-1131). They cannot carry objects using their hands and their reaction to the environment is inherently based on the chemical reactions of their bodies. Primates interact with their environment based on rationale because of their large brains. They are able to carry objects because of their disposable thumbs, and they can also use color vision to distinguish items.

Examples of primates include chimpanzee, ape, gorilla, orangutan, lemur, simian, baboon and megaladapids. Primates are a diverse species with exceptional characteristics that differentiate them from other mammals. They range in size from the 440-pound gorilla to the pygmy mouse that weighs 2 ounces (Rafferty 261). Humans and primates share similar traits. A distinct feature of primates is the prehensible feet and hands. The appendages have opposable thumbs that allows them to perform certain tasks like gripping, holding and lifting items such as tree trunks and branches. However, humans only have prehensible hands. Their hands are sensitive to touch that adds to one of their senses. Prehensible hands and feet in primates allows them to live on trees comfortably.

The shoulder and hips of primates also makes them stand out from other mammals. Primates have flexible hip and shoulder joints that allow them to swing on tree branches and climb up and down easily (Oxnard 1135). The primates have a better range of feet motion because of their flexible hips. The characteristics of primates makes them live a different lifestyle compared to the other mammals. The primates such as the chimpanzee and baboon have an arboreal lifestyle compared to other mammals such as lion or cattle. In addition to their flexibility, primates have a brain that is dedicated to vision and rationalizing social behaviors (Rafferty 201). For example, humans have an expanded cerebrum and a reduced olfactory region. The areas of the brain have been prioritized to support the functioning of sight and recognizing social behaviors. The primates also have larger stereoscopic vision compared to other mammals.

Other physical attributes include the collar bone that primates possess, but other mammals do not share. The primates also exhibit erect posture where they would sometimes sit and or stand (Oxnard 1136). Most of the primates such as the baboon, gorilla and monkey sometimes stand on their two hind legs akin to humans. The other mammals such as lions and dogs only prefer to use both pair of their appendages to move. An addition physical attribute found uniquely on primates is presence of fingernails. Other mammals such as dogs, bears and domestic cats have small sharp claw at the of each digit (Raffetty 62). Primates, alternatively have fingernails and a sensitive palm. The eyes of primates such as monkeys and humans point the same direction resulting from a flattened face. Other mammals such as the dear, horse, elephants and dolphins have two eyes at either side of their head. Stereoscopic vision is enhanced in humans, baboons, and other primates by the fact that their eyes point in the same direction. Yet another differentiating feature is that unlike other mammals, primates have 32 teeth that are different types, a term known as heterodont dentition (Rafferty 150-151). The primates have canines, premolars, incisors, and molars that allows them to shift to a variety of diets. Another distinguishing physical attribute is that primates have a single pair of mammary glands seen in baboons and humans. Other mammals such as cats and dogs have more than one pair of mammary gland. Multiple pairs of mammary glands in other mammals are present in order to feed many young liters.

Monkeys and apes are different types of primates that share the same kingdom, phylum and class. Humans are explained to have evolved from apes, which both have different characteristic from the monkey (Oxnard 1128). Primates are defined by certain characteristics such as flat faces, front facing eyes, and enlarged brains. However, the primates still differ among themselves that can be exemplified with the monkey and the apes. Primates are divided into prosimians and anthropoids suborders. Tarsiers and lemurs are examples of prosimians that are considered to be primitive. The suborder anthropoids are further divided into apes, monkeys and hominids, which humans fall into (Rafferty 204). Anthropoids are characterized by traits such as flat faces, small ears, and large and more advanced brains. The group is considered as the most advanced of primates, with the order of intelligences starting from monkeys, apes then humans.

A key difference between a monkey and an ape is that a monkey is smaller that an ape. Monkeys have smaller arms and longer feet compared to the apes. Monkeys have tails while apes do not (Rafferty 87). The apes are monkeys can easily be distinguished by identifying that one has a tail while the other one has no tail but a bare gluteus. Monkeys are small in size with equally small hands and feet. The front and hind limbs of the monkey have hands with opposable thumbs. Trees are their habitat where they move around similar to cats since they cannot swing from branch to branch. Monkeys diet on small insects and vegetables. They have smaller brains compared to the Apes. Apes are usually larger in size compared to monkeys, and have smaller hind limbs compared to the limbs on the front. The apes have a stronger upper body that facilitates their ability to swing from one branch to another. Compared to monkeys, apes can stand on their feet for a long time, but travel using all of their limbs Apes are considered to be more evolved than the monkey with the ability to grasp information (Oxnard 1129). The apes can use tools such as sticks to knock over fruits from trees. Scientists have also conducted studies on apes that demonstrate the ape's ability to learn human activities such as communication via sign language.

Primates are different from mammals with the various different physical and behavioral attributes. In parallel, primates have different features that further divides them into subgroups. For example, humans are distributed across the world, while other primates such as the prosimians, specifically lemurs, are only located in isolated region of Madagascar (Rafferty 142). Prosimians are also found in South East Asia. Humans have different social behaviors and are able to for social groups based on a myriad of influences without necessary for survival.


Mammals are known to take care of their young, a characteristic that is also shared by the primates. However, primates continue to nurture their young for longer periods compared to other mammals. Humans, apes and monkeys are able to form groups based on families. Alternatively, other mammals such as lions cannot form such bonds since the young move out of the hers after reaching maturity. Primates also live longer than their mammal counterparts. There are distinct traits exhibited by primates that are not shown in other mammals. Primates stand out from their mammal counterparts with the difference in brain capacity and opposable thumbs. Another difference between primates and mammals is that other mammals rely more on smell than sight to interact. Unlike other mammals, primates make decisions based on how the brain has processed the information in their surroundings. Primates are unique among the mammals because of their larger brains. Primates are considered to be the most evolved mammals with advanced cognitive abilities. Within the primates there are those that have evolved more than others. The disparities in the characteristics among primates are attributed to adaptation to the environment.

Works Cited

Oxnard, C.E. "Brain Evolution: Mammals, Primates, Chimpanzees, and Humans." International

Journal of Primatology, 2004, 25: 1127-1158. Top of Form

Rafferty, John P. Primates. New York, NY: Britannica Educational Pub. in association with

Rosen Educational Services, 2011. Print.

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