Monkey Tails


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All monkeys might be primates, but they’re divided into two categories – Old World and New World – depending upon several characteristics. And one factor that helps identify these groups is the tail, and whether this limb is for grasping or balancing while aloft.

Although not all New World species have a prehensile tail, spider monkeys have a tail that can grip a branch and support its weight while in the trees. And the howler, another nimble New World monkey, rarely descends to the ground and depends upon a clutching tail as an extra hand or when hanging from tree limbs.

Recently I observed and studied wild Old World monkeys on a Borneo ecotour, and discovered first-hand that these agile creatures (such as these macaques, below) have mastered the balancing act aloft.

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And while these Old World proboscis monkeys, below, can’t grasp and hang from its tail, they use this extra limb to maintain steadiness while leaping, climbing, feeding, playing and resting in the rainforest.

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Here’s a video clip I captured of a crab-eating macaque troop climbing up tree trunks, leaping to nearby branches and sliding down tree roots, all with the help of their non-prehensile tails:

Learn more about how primates are classified, view an incredible monkey photo gallery

Check out Life in the Canopy: Living Like a Monkey Tuesday, October 7th at 7:00 pm et on Nat Geo WILD!

Photo Credits: Jodi Kendall, taken on a Terra Incognita ecotour in Borneo.