Discovering the Fascinating World of these Baby Primates
Monkeys, like all primates, share many characteristics with us humans. Both physically and in behaviour. This is no surprise when you consider that we share between 96-99% of our DNA sequence with these distant relatives.
The similarities become very clear with baby monkeys. With how they behave, their relationship with their mother and their development. In this post we look at some awesome baby monkey facts, as well as answer some of the most frequently asked questions about these remarkable primates.
7 Awesome Baby Monkey Facts
Baby Monkeys Are Called Infants
Much like baby humans, a baby monkey is called an ‘infant‘. Mothers usually give birth in solitude, during the night and up in the safety of the trees. As they grow up, the different sexes are simply called ‘male‘ or ‘female‘, with no specific gender based names beyond that.
There is no collective noun specifically for a group of baby monkeys, but monkeys in general are collectively known as a ‘troop‘ of monkeys. Other collective nouns used less commonly are , a ‘tribe‘ of monkeys, or a ‘barrel‘ of monkeys. When describing a person or animal that is being very clever or cunning, they may also be described as being as cunning as a ‘cartload of monkeys‘.
This is true for both new world monkeys and old world monkeys.
Most Monkeys Give Birth To One Baby At A Time
Monkeys are born after a gestation period of around 8 months, nearly as long as humans! They usually only give birth to a single infant from a pregnancy, and twins are generally rare for most species. For some monkeys, such as many of the marmoset and tamarin monkeys – which are both new world monkeys – twins occur much more regularly, and triplets are also known to occur.
Baby Monkeys Stay Very Close To Their Mother
Baby monkeys generally cling to their mothers very closely for the first few months of their life. It does vary across the abundant species, but generally, they should not be separated from their mothers for the first 3 to 6 months of their life.
Removal of a baby from their mother early in life can have a lifelong impact on a monkey’s mental health, particularly their capacity to handle anxiety and their ability to engage socially and skilfully.
Often, for the first two weeks or so, they will cling to their mothers front, though as they have weak arms at this point, they are usually held tightly by their mothers in place. Once they have a bit more strength, they move to their mothers back and cling on using their own strength.
They are weaned from their mothers milk between 8 months to 18 months depending on the species. But many will receive some milk for up to 3 to 4 years, or until their parent has another infant.
Even once weaned off their mothers milk and standing on their own two feet, they stay very close in the family unit for a long time after, to learn the life skills they need to become independent.
Just Like Human Babies, Monkey Babies Also Throw Tantrums
There are some baby monkeys that will throw a tantrum every bit as well as a human infant. In early life, they have still to develop their communication skills and struggle to clearly display their needs to their mother.
To get their mothers attention, particularly when they want food, they will cry and scream until their mother gives them the attention they want. If they lose sight of their parent, are worried, hungry or cold they may cry, but this cry can turn tantrum like if they go ignored or unattended.
This can be problematic for the mother if the tantrum is in public. Inattentive mothers risk being the target of slapping, shoving and aggression by others in their group who are irritated by the noise. The babies themselves may also receive ‘discipline’ by other group members for their noise.
There Are Several Similarities Between Baby Monkeys And Baby Humans
Infant monkeys are similar to infant humans and other primates in several ways. Some of the most interesting include:
- Baby Talk – Both baby monkeys and baby humans learn to communicate with their parents through baby talk. Similar to how a human mother may ‘coo’ or make simple sounds, tones and facial expressions to communicate with their young, many monkeys do the same thing. In research discussed in a new scientist article, with some monkeys such as the Rhesus Macaque, the baby talk is not limited to mother and child. It is also used by other females in the group to comfort and soothe infants.
- Important Early Psychological Development – Both infant monkeys and humans can suffer from anxiety/ separation issues if left alone often frequently early in life. Particularly in the event of the death of a parent. Monkeys abandoned early often struggle later in life, not learning the skills they would rely on a parent to teach them. They fail to make strong connections or learn even basic survival skills well.
- Crying – Both baby monkeys and baby humans start out with limited communication abilities and will cry to get what they want.
- Playing – Both baby monkeys and baby humans love to play, and learn many things from it. Including basic motor skills and social skills.
- Milk Teeth – Both human and monkey infants develop an early set of baby ‘milk’ teeth, that they lose during the juvenile stage before their permanent ‘mature’ teeth grow in.
A Baby Monkey Has A Natal Coat
All baby monkeys are born with a ‘natal coat’, which is replaced by or fades into their permanent coat after a few months. However, some baby monkeys are born with a coat that is greatly different in color to their adult fur.
This is called ‘conspicuous natal coat coloration’ and is not only present in some monkeys, but with other primate species too. There are some different theories as to why these infants have such a different color of coat to their adult peers, and there is no ‘one size fits all’ reason so far.
In one example of Langur Monkeys, they are born with bright orange fur that changes into black fur with silvered tips as they mature. It is believed that this different color as infants is to attract other females in the group to assist in the rearing of the young. It distinguishes them as ‘infant’ and in need of support.
One other popular theory is that they have this different colored coat as a means of camouflage.
Baby Monkeys Learn To Form Strong Bonds
Monkeys learn to form social bonds from an early age. Like us, they learn early on from observation and example. They are taught to show affection to their siblings through close contact, grooming and cuddling. They play with their siblings and other youngsters in their group and they display a range of emotions.
As they mature, a monkey may decide to leave a social group but only when they are looking to join a new group. This will often happen with males looking to breed with females of another group. They don’t like to live alone and those that are kept in captivity have been known to become depressed if deprived of social contact.
Baby Monkey FAQs
What Is The Lifecycle Of A Baby Monkey?
In terms of the basic lifecycle stages of a baby monkey, these are simply: – gestation in the womb, childhood (which includes infancy, juvenility and adolescence), and adulthood. The length that each of these stages takes however, depends on the type of monkey and can vary widely.
For instance, pygmy marmoset monkeys have a gestation period of around 134 days, whereas the Talapoin monkeys average 190 days and the old world Grivet monkey averages 210 days. Gorillas and Chimpanzees spend longer in the womb.
Maturity can also come late for some monkeys. While there are those that reach sexual maturity around 18 months (Cottontop Tamarin), others remain adolescent for up to 8 years. Females reach sexual maturity before males.
In the wild, most monkeys can live between 10 – 45 years. Now this is quite a wide margin, but there are over 200 species of monkey, of various shapes and sizes, living in many different habitats. New World Titi Monkeys and Saki Monkeys have some of the shortest average lifespans, between 12-14 years.
Preuss’s Monkeys, De Brazza’s Monkeys and Grivets on the other hand all average over 30 years in the wild.
How Much Does A Baby Monkey Weigh?
Across the wide variety of monkey species, the weight of baby monkeys varies considerably. For the most part, New World monkeys tend to be smaller than Old World baby monkeys.
One of the smallest baby monkeys, the pygmy marmoset, weighs around 3 – 15 grams at birth, according to San Diego Zoo, growing to around 85 to 140 grams in maturity.
At the other end of the scale, baby mandrill monkeys are born with a weight averaging between 400 – 900 grams. Males grow to be between 18 – 33 kg in adulthood, whereas females grow to about half that size, 11 – 13 kg. Mandrills reach maturity between 4 – 7 years, females before males..
However, the average baby monkey weight across all species, is around 300 grams.
How Big Do Baby Monkeys Grow?
Again, this varies widely depending on the species. At the low end of the scale, the baby pygmy marmoset will grow to reach around 12 to 16 cm (4.6-6.2 in), with a tail as long as 17 to 23 cm.
The mandrill on the other hand will grow to reach anywhere between 62 to 110 cm for males, and 55 to 67 cm for females.
These species represent the smallest and largest ends of the scale, with all other 200 plus species fitting somewhere in-between. However, the average baby across all species of monkey, will grow to be about 18 inches tall.
What Do Baby Monkeys Eat?
At first, similarly to all other primates and mammals in general, a baby monkey relies on it’s mothers milk for food. Over time, they are introduced to a solid diet but continue to nurse for around 18 months on average. Much longer for some species.
Once they are introduced to solid food, baby monkeys eat a variety of things, depending on the species. Availability of food varies greatly for different monkeys as they live so far and wide. But in general, all baby monkeys will start to eat whatever local insects, fruit, vegetables, seeds, nuts and leaves they can find. Some baby monkeys have been known to eat their own or their mothers faeces in order to get more nutrition.
Where Do Baby Monkeys Live?
Baby monkeys live in close family units along with their mothers and siblings, and often their father or dominant male too. These family units live in larger social groups too, commonly up to 20 – 50 members. New World monkey species live in South America and Central America, whereas Old World monkeys predominantly live in Asia and Africa, with only one remaining species living wild in a very small part of Europe.
They prefer to live in tree cover, particularly tropical rainforests. The exception to this being the Barbary macaques that live in Gibraltar, with a population of up to 300 of these monkeys living on the rock. These monkeys commonly engage with people in the urban environment.
What Are The Natural Predators Of Baby Monkeys?
Depending on the continent, baby monkeys face a variety of different predators and threats. Big cats such as lions, leopards and tigers are known predators. New world monkeys particularly tamarind babies are known to be taken by crested eagles, while harpy eagles and other birds of prey will also happily take a monkey as a meal. Reptiles including alligators and crocodiles will also take advantage of any unsuspecting monkey given half a chance.
Some monkeys however, need look no further than their own group for their would-be attacker. Infanticide can be very high with some species of monkey, where parents or aggressive competing males will attack their young brutally, often resulting in death. This happens most often in the very early and ‘noisy’ stages of childhood.
What Is The Oldest Monkey In The World?
The oldest monkey alive today, is a Spider Monkey called Elvis. This monkey, who lives in captivity at Idaho Zoo, turned 61 this year in may well be the oldest in the world, though their may be unrecorded wild monkeys that are older.