Living Primates main content.

Living Primates

Part of Hall of Human Origins.

Humans are primates–a diverse group that includes some 200 species. 

© AMNH / Denis FinninLiving primates

Monkeys, lemurs and apes are our cousins, and we all have evolved from a common ancestor over the last 60 million years. Because primates are related, they are genetically similar. Human DNA is, on average, 96% identical to the DNA of our most distant primate relatives, and nearly 99% identical to our closest relatives, chimpanzees and bonobos.

What do most living primates have in common?

  • Large brains (in relation to body size)
  • Vision more important than sense of smell
  • Hands adapted for grasping
  • Long life spans and slow growth
  • Few offspring, usually one at a time
  • Complex social groups

© Leonard Lessin/Peter Arnold, Inc.Pseudo-isochromatic chart for testing color blindness

Seeing in Living Color

Most mammals, including pottos and certain other primates, are colorblind-they can't see the color red. Yet humans and many other primates perceive a full spectrum of color. The color vision that humans take for granted may have evolved in prim