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Primates and Their Defining Characteristics

Primates are the group of mammals. This group consists of such animals as monkeys, lemurs, and apes. Humans are primates too. What is more, humans are the most recent category of primates. Although humans live all across the globe except Antarctica, the majority of primates inhabit tropical and subtropical areas. Primates come in different sizes, and they vary from species to species. For instance, the body of tarsiers, lemurs, and tree shrews can be from 8,5 to 12 centimeters long, and gorillas reach the average heights of 180 centimeters.

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There are several biological, behavioral, and life history patterns, which are associated with all representatives of the Primate order. For example, almost all primates have hands and feet, and there are five fingers or digits on their feet and hands. Primates use these appendages to hold and eat food, grab onto branches, and climb trees. Besides, primates have flexible shoulder and hip joints. Such features are necessary for primates’ arboreal lifestyle. The primate brain is another distinctive feature. Primates have the most developed brain among all animals. Apart from this, primates have nails instead of claws. This feature is probably the most interesting. Scientists agree upon the fact that nails instead of claws are one of the most important characteristics of the biological Primate order. However, it is important to underline that not all species of primates have nails.

To understand why primates do not have claws, firstly, it is important to emphasize that nails replaced claws at the beginning of the primates’ evolution. Due to having nails instead of claws, primates use their hands more skillfully because they have to deal with small foods such as fruits and insects. Thus, they need additional dexterity to carefully clean fruits and pick up and handle ants and other insects. Besides, having nails is closely connected with primates’ arboreal lifestyle. The presence of nails contributes to a better grip when primates jump from one tree to another. It enables primates to be less likely to fall off a tree. Apart from this, having nails increases the sensitivity of fingers.

Humans have nails instead of claws because nails are the part of the evolutionary development. Human nails serve a few important functions. Firstly, it goes without saying that nails enable humans to manipulate and hold small things better. Apart from this, nails are developed in order to protect the tips of the human fingers. Otherwise, the tips of fingers would be scratched. What is more, nails can indicate general human health. There are a few nails conditions that can be the signs of certain illnesses. For example, if nails are pale and deformed, it can be the indicator of fungal infection or psoriasis.

To sum up, primates are the group of mammals that includes humans, apes, and other monkeys. Primates range in size from 8,5 to 180 centimeters in general. There are more than 400 species of primates in nature. There are some obvious characteristics that define primates such as hands and feet, flexible shoulder and hip joints, a developed brain, nails instead of claws, and others. Nails enable primates to use their hands more skillfully in order to pick up and handle food and climb trees. Nails are important for humans too. They are necessary not only for manipulating small things and protection fingertips, but they also serve as the indicators of some illnesses.

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