Primate, in zoology, any member of the animal group (the order Primates) that includes lemurs, tarsiers, monkeys, apes, and humans. There are about 200 species. Non-human primates are found chiefly in the warmer areas of Africa, Asia, and the Americas. Largest of the primates is the gorilla; smallest are the mouse lemur and the pygmy marmoset.

With the exception of humans, primates are basically tree-dwelling animals. Most primates have five digits on each limb and nails instead of claws. In most species, the thumbs and big toes are opposable, enabling primates to grasp with their hands and feet. Primates have well-developed cerebral hemispheres and three-dimensional vision.

Kinds of Primates

Primates are usually divided into two suborders and 13 families.

Suborder Prosimii

These primates typically have a claw on the second toe, and large eyes. Most also have a long muzzle.


Dwarf and mouse lemurs.


True lemurs.

Lepilemuridae, or Megaladapidae

Weasel, or sportive, lemurs.


Avahi, indri, and sifakas.




Galagos, lorises, and pottos.



Suborder Anthropoidea

These primates typically have nails on all fingers and toes, and small eyes. Most also have a short muzzle.

Callitrichidae. Marmosets.

Cebidae. New World monkeys.

Cercopithecidae. Old World monkeys.

Hylobatidae. Lesser apes, or gibbons.

Pongidae. Great apes, or chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, and orangutans.

Hominidae. Human beings.

Some zoologists consider tree shrews to be primates of the family Tupaiidae. Most zoologists, however, place tree shrews in their own order, Scandentia. Some zoologists place galagos in their own family, Galagidae. Goeldi's marmoset is placed by some in its own family, Callimiconidae.