Science - Nature
By: - at February 28, 2013

15 Odd And Interesting Facts about Monkeys

Because of their mischievous nature, monkeys are one of the most popular animals in the world. In many ways, the primates are among the most human-like of creatures, often displaying a behavior that is strikingly similar to that of man. Besides their human-like qualities, monkeys also have some unique traits of their own.

Illustration of Primates by 19th Century Naturalist G.H. Schubert:
Illustration of Primates by 19th Century Naturalist G.H. Schubert


15)  Monkeys Are Worshipped in a Number of Religions
Hanuman is a human-like monkey god in the Hindu religion, and is a highly regarded deity. The god is believed to inspire strength and courage as well as bestow a long life to those who embrace him spiritually.

In Ancient Peru, worshippers once regarded monkeys with great respect and often included them in their artwork. What's more, the Tzeltal people of Mexico believed the animals to be incarnations of their departed ancestors.

Tzeltal Dancers Performing at the Municipal Palace in San Cristobal, Mexico:
Tzeltal Dancers Performing at the Municipal Palace in San Cristobal, Chiapas, Mexico
By AlejandroLinaresGarcia via Wikimedia Commons

The monkey is considered spiritually significant in Buddhism too, though in a much more complicated way. That’s because the primate is considered to be an early personification of Buddha. As a result, some followers of the religion regard monkeys with high esteem.

Buddha While Living in the Deep Forest - Monkey Gives the Buddha Some Honey to Sustain His Life and Many Other Animals in Turn Provide for the Buddha:
Buddha While Living in the Deep Forest - Monkey Gives the Buddha Some Honey to Sustain His Life and Many Other Animals in Turn Provide for the Buddha
By myself via Wikimedia Commons

However, some Buddhists do not feel the same way as their fellow followers and see the monkey as exhibiting traits that do not go along with the Buddhist philosophy of acceptance and peace. For example, in Chinese Buddhism, the metaphor, “mind monkey” or “monkey mind,” denotes someone who has a restless or disordered mind.


14)  Two Islands Are Considered Home Solely to Monkeys
Two islands in the world are dedicated to monkeys. One of the islands, known as Monkey Island, is located in Puerto Rico and was established in 1938. Scientists breed monkeys there for research purposes. Researchers also study monkeys in the wild at the habitat. Currently, over 800 monkeys reside on the island.

One Female and One Young Rhesus Macaque, the Variety that Dominates Local Population:
One Female and One Young Rhesus Macaque, the Variety that Dominates Local Population
By Mieciu K2 via Wikimedia Commons

The second island, called Morgan Island, is located off of South Carolina. Established in 1979 for the same reasons as Monkey Island, the isle is home to 4,000 monkeys – five times more than what live in the Puerto Rican sanctuary.

Sign and Some of the Local Wildlife on Morgan Island, SC:
Sign and Some of the Local Wildlife on Morgan Island, SC


13)  Monkeys Can Recognize Themselves in Mirrors
Few animals possess the ability to recognize themselves in a mirror. Upon seeing their reflection, most mammals merely assume that it’s just another animal. However, monkeys are one of the few animals that can recognize their own image.

White-Faced Capuchin Monkey from Costa Rica - Only Primate to Have Some Difficulty With Recognizing Their Reflection:
White-Faced Capuchin Monkey from Costa Rica - Only Primate to Have Some Difficulty With Recognizing Their Reflection

The only exception, in this case, is the capuchin monkey, which does not make the connection at first glance. Besides the monkey, only orcas, apes, elephants and dolphins can identify their reflection.

Capuchin Monkey:
Capuchin Monkey
By Steven G. Johnson via Wikimedia Commons


12)  Monkeys Peel Bananas Upside Down
Like humans, monkeys will peel their bananas and not consume the skin. However, the primates peel the banana from the bottom up instead of from the top like a human.

Peeling the Proper Way - Starting at the Bottom and Working Towards the Stem:
Peeling the Proper Way - Starting at the Bottom and Working Towards the Stem

Although peeling the fruit from the top down is assumed to be the best approach, people seem to have more trouble with this method if the stem rips off. That’s when the monkey’s technique works out better for him.

Sometime, why not give it a shot at home and see which way is better. The same way you were taught years ago to peel and eat a banana, or another way that has been forged over generations of adaptation and genetic optimization. 


11)  Monkey’s Don’t Like Human Contact
Despite the fact that many humans enjoy patting and hugging monkeys, the vast majority of monkeys actually hate contact, especially from their human friends.

monkey riding in car with driver and owner

Even monkeys that have been domesticated don’t like this kind of interaction. While domesticated monkeys will tolerate being touched by humans, they prefer to congregate and interact with their own species.

It Might Appear that These Monkeys Are Completely Safe to Socialize With - Never Do Something Like This Without Extreme Caution:
It Might Appear that These Monkeys Are Completely Safe to Socialize With - Never Do Something Like This Without Extreme Caution


10)  The Howler Monkey Is the Loudest and Laziest of the Monkey Species
Of the various monkey breeds, the Howler monkey is by far the loudest. In fact, the primate’s howl is so ear-numbing that the call can be heard up to three miles away!

Two Howler Monkeys Vocalizing:
Two Howler Monkeys Vocalizing
By Steve via Wikimedia Commons

Despite its raucous way of expressing itself though, the Howler, fortunately, spends most of its time (around 80%) sleeping or at rest.

Brown Howler in Santa Maria de Jetiba, Brazil:
Brown Howler in Santa Maria de Jetiba, Brazil
By Paulo B. Chaves via Wikimedia Commons





9)  Monkeys Understand the Concept of Money
Monkeys Understand the Concept of MoneyIn 2005, researchers wanted to prove that humankind wasn’t the only species that understands the concept of money. Therefore, scientists conducted a study involving seven capuchin monkeys. The basic idea of the experiment was to give the animals money and see what they would do with it.

Because capuchin monkeys have relatively small brains, their typical concerns have to do with food or sex. Therefore, food was provided as an incentive to teach the primates the value of cash. Although it took several months for the monkeys to learn this principle, the primates began budgeting their money when they found they could exchange it for food.

The monkeys, who could choose from applies, grapes or Jell-O, liked the most expensive treat, or the Jell-O best. As a result, they bought more of the product when the prices were lowered and less of the dessert when the prices increased.


8)  Titi Monkeys Are Monogamous
Among the many species of monkeys in the world, only the Titi monkey of South America is known to be monogamous. The monkey, which mates for life, becomes highly distressed if it is separated from its partner for any length of time.

Titi Monkeys Snuggling Up:
Titi Monkeys Snuggling Up

The affectionate animals show their love by grooming one another, nuzzling, holding hands, smacking their lips, cuddling, and intertwining tails.

Titi Monkey:
Titi Monkey


7)  Capuchin Monkeys Can Use Tools And Sound Warnings
The Capuchin monkey is remarkably skilled when it comes to using tools. Often, the monkey will use rocks to break shells of nuts or will manipulate sticks to reach into crevices to obtain food. The monkey, which protects its hands by creating gloves made out of leaves, can ably defend itself as well using branches from trees. The agile monkey also removes the hair from caterpillars by scraping the larvae’s body against trunks of trees.

White-Faced Capuchin Monkey:
White-Faced Capuchin Monkey

In addition, the capuchin uses limbs along with rocks to sound a warning to the other monkeys about an approaching danger. The monkey uses one of a number of vocalizations to sound out an alarm as well.


6)  There Are Two Specific Groups of Monkeys
Officially, there are two groups of monkeys – Old World Monkeys and New World Monkeys. Monkeys from South and Central America, with flat noses, make up the New World group while monkeys from Africa, with thinner noses, comprise the Old World group.

New World Monkeys = Orange and Old World Monkeys = Red:
New World Monkeys = Orange and Old World Monkeys = Red
By Maphobbyist via Wikimedia Commons

A number of differences are displayed between the two groups. For example, Old World monkeys possess 32 teeth while the New World variety have 36. Old World monkeys have large cheek pouches as well, where they store food that they save for later consumption. Also, a large number of New World Monkeys don’t have thumbs, although squirrel monkeys and capuchins have pseudo-opposable thumbs, which help them climb and eat.

Dominant Male Proboscis Monkey - Old World Monkey:
Dominant Male Proboscis Monkey - Old World Monkey
By Bjorn Christian Torrissen via Wikimedia Commons

Approximately 80 species of New World monkeys are known to live in the Amazon basin at this time and 90 species of Old World monkeys are found in their natural habitats in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.

White-handed Gibbon - New World Monkey:
White-handed Gibbon - New World Monkey
By Ram-Man via Wikimedia Commons


5)  Diseased Monkeys Are a Hazard in Florida
While there are numerous tourist sites throughout the world where monkeys roam freely, visitors to these regions should not get too close to the animals. Monkeys, especially, populate the countries of Thailand and India, where they carry such bacterial viruses as hepatitis, tuberculosis (TB) and simian herpes B.

Transmission Electron Micrograph of Herpes Simplex Virus:
Transmission Electron Micrograph of Herpes Simplex Virus

In fact, the health hazards are so pronounced that the state of Florida issued an alert in 2013. At that time, they cautioned people about the strong possibility of contracting herpes B from the rhesus monkeys that reside in the state.

Two Young Indian Rhesus Macaque Monkeys Playing:
Two Young Indian Rhesus Macaque Monkeys Playing

The monkeys became a part of Florida’s animal population in 1930s. That’s when a tour operator by the name of Colonel Tooey introduced the rhesus species to his animal park. Unfortunately, some of the animals got loose and fled onto the Florida landscape. Now, the monkeys cause a legitimate health concern for people living in or visiting the Sunshine State.


4)  Monkeys Display a Moral Code
Researchers have observed a number of instances when monkeys demonstrate a strong sense of morality and sensitivity. In one experiment involving rhesus monkeys, researchers tested the animals by offering them food in return for pulling a chain. However, there was one contingency – when the chain was pulled, it would shock another monkey.

Often the Darkest Sides of Science Involve Drug Studies or Other Highly Involved Medical or Wartime Testing Using Rhesus Monkeys:
Often the Darkest Sides of Science Involve Drug Studies or Other Highly Involved Medical or Wartime Testing Using Rhesus Monkeys

Rather than hurt its friend, each primate that was tested chose to go without the food.


3)  Fluorescent Monkeys May Cure Diseases
In 2009, scientists genetically altered five marmoset monkeys. Using a fluorescent protein, the researchers modified the animals so that they glowed bright green under ultraviolet light. Unlike earlier monkeys that were genetically modified, these monkeys were able to pass their unique ability on to their offspring. This suggested that the alteration was deeply embedded in the animals’ DNA.

Glowing or Fluorescent Monkeys Spark a Massive Genetic Engineering Debate:
Glowing or Fluorescent Monkeys Spark a Massive Genetic Engineering Debate

The breakthrough was significant as it showed that genetic modification only had to be done once. More importantly though, the success of the experiment led to improved research methods for assessing degenerative, neurological diseases which, currently, are considered incurable.

Previously, scientists tried adding a gene from subjects suffering from Huntington's disease into other genetically modified monkeys. However, they failed in their attempt to add the chromosome to the animals’ DNA. As a result, the gene was not passed down to the animals’ offspring. Because of the success of using the fluorescent protein though, scientists discovered individual modifications were no longer necessary.

In turn, a new animal model has been established in which to study disease. Therefore, researchers can now use fluorescent protein to study and find cures for a variety of illnesses.


2)  The Three Wise Monkeys Have Names – However, There Are Actually Four of Them
The "three wise monkeys," otherwise known as the "three mystic apes," are a visual embodiment of the principle that people should - "See no evil, Hear no evil and Speak no evil.” Unbeknownst to most people though is the fact that the three icons actually have names.

Three Wise Monkeys Carved on a Stable at Toshogu Shrine, Nikko, Japan:
Three Wise Monkeys Carved on a Stable at Toshogu Shrine, Nikko, Japan
By David Monniaux via Wikimedia Commons

The monkey covering his eyes (“See no evil”) is named Mizaru while the primate covering his ears (“Hear no evil”) is called Kikazaru. The primate shielding his mouth (“Speak no evil”) is known as Iwazaru. In English, the monkeys' names are typically misrepresented as being “Mizaru,” “Mikazaru,” and “Mazaru.” The misrepresentation stems from confusion over the original Japanese translation.

Moreover, Westerners, over time, have misconstrued the general idea of the “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” message. The original meaning is meant to encourage people to be of sound mind, speech and action. However, Westerners have come to view the message as another way of saying to look the other way to impropriety.

From Left: Iwazaru, Kikazaru, Mizaru, and Shizaru:
From Left: Iwazaru, Kikazaru, Mizaru, and Shizaru
By Bildforyou7 via Wikimedia Commons

One other monkey is sometimes added to the three well-known primates as well. Shizaru, who is usually pictured with his arms crossed, represents the principal of “Do no evil,” among the symbolic, well-known primates.


1)  Some Monkeys Are Metallica Fans
In 2009, it was discovered that monkeys are fans of heavy metal music, specifically Metallica. A study found that the music actually had a calming effect on the animals. Researchers played a variety of musical styles to some Emperor tamarins, but the monkeys only seemed to like the heavy metal sounds of the Metallica band.

Emperor Tamarin - A New World Monkey:
Emperor Tamarin - A New World Monkey
By Brocken Inaglory via Wikimedia Commons

Other music that was played and tested included classical arrangements by Bach and songs by Miles Davis. The music of another heavy metal group, Led Zeppelin, was also tested. However, the monkeys had no response to the classic tunes of the well-known band.

For the study, psychology professor Charles Snowdon teamed up with cellist David Teie to perform some of the tunes. Because monkeys use pitch and tone as well as other auditory cues to express emotion, music can stir certain feelings and behaviors in the animals. Music contains a number of elements that cause this effect, including the tones of the vocals, the pitch of the tunes, and the rhythm and speed of the notes being played.

The monkeys interpret the rise and fall of tones differently than humans do, which explains why the primates felt calm when listening to Metallica.


Conclusion
Monkeys are indeed fascinating creatures for a variety of reasons. Not only do they display interesting traits individually, the human-like characteristics they exhibit are as uncanny as they are well worth noting.


 

 

 

 

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