Primates (Encyclopedia of Science)
The mammals (warm-blooded animals) called primates include the lower primates (lemurs, lorises, and tarsiers) and the higher primates (monkeys, apes, and humans). Mostly occurring in tropical areas, primates first evolved more than 50 million years ago from shrewlike, insect-eating mammals. Many present-day primates are arboreal (tree-dwellers), with long, agile limbs for climbing and four fingers and an opposable thumb covered by nails for grasping branches. (An opposable thumb is one that is able to be placed against the other fingers.) The eyes of primates are located in the front of their heads, allowing depth perception. Their diet consists of fruit, leaves, stems, buds, and insects, although some primates are carnivores (meat-eaters). Primates have large brains, with the higher primates showing a marked intelligence.
Lower primates: Lemurs, lorises, tarsiers
The lower primates, including the lemurs, lorises, and tarsiers, were the first primates, occurring in North America, Europe, and Asia. Lemurs now occur only on Madagascar, an island off the coast of Africa. They are mostly tree-dwelling, nocturnal (active at night) animals with a moist snout (nose) and a long, furry tail. Lorises are slow-moving, tailless, and nocturnal and live in trees. They are found in southeast Asia and Africa. Tarsiers are small primates with large bulging eyes and a long, thin, naked...
(The entire section is 990 words.)
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