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Catarrhini is one of the two subdivisions of the simians, the other being the Platyrrhini (New World monkeys). The Catarrhini contains the Old World monkeys and the apes; the latter of which are in turn further divided into the lesser apes or gibbons and the great apes, consisting of the orangutans, gorillas, chimpanzees, and humans. The Catarrhini are all native to Africa and Asia. Members of this parvorder are called catarrhines.

Temporal range: Late Eocene–Holocene
Macaca arctoides.png
Stump-tailed macaques
Scientific classification edit
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Primates
Suborder: Haplorhini
Infraorder: Simiiformes
Parvorder: Catarrhini
É. Geoffroy, 1812[1]

Cercopithecoidea (Old World monkeys)
Hominoidea (apes)



The technical distinction between the New World platyrrhines and Old World catarrhines is the shape of their noses. The platyrrhines (from Ancient Greek platu-, "flat", and rhin-, "nose") have nostrils which face sideways. The catarrhines (from Ancient Greek kata-, "down", and rhin-, "nose") have nostrils that face downwards. Catarrhines also never have prehensile tails, and have flat fingernails and toenails, a tubular ectotympanic (ear bone), and eight, not 12, premolars, giving them a dental formula of:[2]

Most catarrhine species show considerable sexual dimorphism and do not form a pair bond. Most, but not all, species live in social groups.[citation needed] Like the platyrrhines, the catarrhines are generally diurnal,[2] and have grasping hands and (with the exception of bipedal humans) grasping feet.

The apes – in both traditional and phylogenic nomenclature – are exclusively catarrhine species. In traditional usage, ape describes any tailless, larger, and more typically ground-dwelling species of catarrhine. "Ape" may be found as part of the common name of such species, such as the Barbary ape. In phylogenic usage, the term ape applies only to the superfamily Hominoidea. This grouping comprises the two families Hylobatidae, the lesser apes or gibbons, and Hominidae, the great apes, including orangutans, gorillas, chimpanzees, Homo, and related extinct genera, such as the prehuman australopithecines and the giant orangutan relative Gigantopithecus.

Classification and evolutionEdit

According to Schrago & Russo, apes and Old World monkeys split from their New World monkey kin about 35 million years ago (Mya). They use the major catarrhine division between Cercopithecoids and Hominoids of about 25 Mya (which they argue is strongly supported by the fossil evidence), as a calibration point, and from this also calculate the gibbons separating from the great apes (including humans) about 15-19 Mya.[3]

According to Begun and Harrison, apes and Old World monkeys split from their New World monkey kin about 44 - 40 Mya, with the first catarrhines appearing in Africa and Arabia, and not appearing in Eurasia (outside Arabia) until 18-17 Mya.[4]

The distinction between apes and monkeys is complicated by the traditional paraphyly of monkeys: Apes emerged as a sister group of Old World Monkeys in the catarrhines, which are a sister group of New World Monkeys. Therefore, cladistically, apes, catarrhines and related contemporary extinct groups such as Parapithecidaea are monkeys as well, for any consistent definition of "monkey". "Old World Monkey" may also legitimately be taken to be meant to include all the catarrhines, including apes and extinct species such as Aegyptopithecus,[5] in which case the apes, Cercopithecoidea and Aegyptopithecus emerged within the Old World Monkeys.


Below is a cladogram with extinct species in which the crown Catharrhini emerged within the Dendropithecidae,[6] which emerged in the Propliopithecoidea.[7][8] Also, Saadanioidea is sister of the Cercopithecoidea rather than of the Crown Catarrhini here. It is indicated how many million years ago (Mya) the clades diverged into newer clades.

Crown Simians (37)


Catarrhini (35)

Oligopithecidae (†34 Mya)

Propliopithecoidea (35)

Taqah Propliopithecid (†31)

Propliopithecoidea s.s. (†31)

Propliopithecus (†30)

Aegyptopithecus (†30)


Kamoyapithecus (†25)

Pliopithecoidea (†6)

Dendropithecidae (32)
Dendropithecidae s.s (22)

Dendropithecus (†20)

Limnopithecus legetet (†20)

Limnopithecus evansi (†20)


Simiolus (†17)

Micropithecus (†17)

Crown Catharrhini (31)



Saadanioidea (†28)

Cercopithecoidea (24)

Victoriapithecinae (†19)

Crown Cercopithecoidea

An alternative phylogeny of the Dendropithecidae (cladistically granting Crown Catharrhini) was offered by Rossie and Hill with Micropithecus diverging first. Diverging second were the Cercopithecoidea. Also Ekembo was found to be paraphyletic.[9]


  1. ^ a b Groves, C. P. (2005). "ORDER PRIMATES". In Wilson, D. E.; Reeder, D. M. Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference (3rd ed.). Johns Hopkins University Press. pp. 111–184. ISBN 978-0-8018-8221-0. OCLC 62265494.
  2. ^ a b "Catarrhini Infraorder". ChimpanZoo (The Jane Goodall Institute). Archived from the original on 15 October 2012. Retrieved January 1, 2010.
  3. ^ Carlos G. Schrago; Claudia A. M. Russo (2003-06-27). "Timing the Origin of New World Monkeys". Molecular Biology and Evolution. Oxford Journals. Retrieved 2017-05-30.
  4. ^ Harrison, Terry (2012). "Chapter 20 Catarrhine Origins". In Begun, David. A Companion To Paleoanthropology. Wiley Blackwell. ISBN 978-1-118-33237-5. Archived from the original on 2013.
  5. ^ "Monkeys and apes".
  6. ^ Nengo, Isaiah; Tafforeau, Paul; Gilbert, Christopher C.; Fleagle, John G.; Miller, Ellen R.; Feibel, Craig; Fox, David L.; Feinberg, Josh; Pugh, Kelsey D. (2017). "New infant cranium from the African Miocene sheds light on ape evolution". Nature. 548 (7666): 169–174. doi:10.1038/nature23456. PMID 28796200.
  7. ^ Seiffert, Erik R.; Boyer, Doug M.; Fleagle, John G.; Gunnell, Gregg F.; Heesy, Christopher P.; Perry, Jonathan M. G.; Sallam, Hesham M. (2017-04-10). "New adapiform primate fossils from the late Eocene of Egypt". Historical Biology. 0: 1–23. doi:10.1080/08912963.2017.1306522. ISSN 0891-2963.
  8. ^ Stevens, Nancy J.; Seiffert, Erik R.; O'Connor, Patrick M.; Roberts, Eric M.; Schmitz, Mark D.; Krause, Cornelia; Gorscak, Eric; Ngasala, Sifa; Hieronymus, Tobin L. (2013). "Palaeontological evidence for an Oligocene divergence between Old World monkeys and apes". Nature. 497 (7451): 611–614. doi:10.1038/nature12161.
  9. ^ "A new species of Simiolus from the middle Miocene of the Tugen Hills, Kenya". Journal of Human Evolution. 125: 50–58. 2018-12-01. doi:10.1016/j.jhevol.2018.09.002. ISSN 0047-2484.
  • Sellers, Bill (2000-10-20). "Primate Evolution" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-08-21.
  • Disotell T. R.; Noviello C. M.; Raaum R. L.; Sterner K. N.; Stewart C. (2005). "Catarrhine primate divergence dates estimated from complete mitochondrial genomes: concordance with fossil and nuclear DNA evidence". J. Hum. Evol. 48 (3): 237–257. doi:10.1016/j.jhevol.2004.11.007. PMID 15737392.