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Old World Monkeys vs. New World Monkeys: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Harlon Moss || Updated on October 9, 2023
Old World monkeys, found in Africa and Asia, generally have smaller ears, no prehensile tails, and sit pads, while New World monkeys, native to the Americas, feature larger, often prehensile tails and typically possess wider, side-facing nostrils.

Key Differences

Old World monkeys typically exhibit physical traits, such as narrower noses where the nostrils face downward, contrasting with the New World monkeys which often have flatter, wider noses with nostrils that are spaced farther apart and tend to face sideways.
The habitats of Old World monkeys, spanning Africa and Asia, are notably distant and ecologically varied from the habitats of New World monkeys, which predominantly reside in the tropical regions of Central and South America, highlighting a geographical distinction.
When observing locomotion and tail functionality, Old World monkeys generally lack prehensile tails and navigate through various means, whereas many New World monkeys possess prehensile tails, using them as a ‘fifth limb’ for navigation and manipulation in their environments.
The social and group behaviors also exhibit distinctions: Old World monkeys often display complex social hierarchies and vocalization patterns, while New World monkeys showcase a range of social behaviors and communication, with some species demonstrating matriarchal social structures.
Diet and feeding habits present another contrast: Old World monkeys exhibit a wide-ranging diet from fruits, leaves, and even small animals, while New World monkeys, although also varied in diet, often possess dental specializations for particular feeding habits, including folivory.

Comparison Chart

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Usage Example

Old World monkeys inhabit various regions across Africa and Asia.
New World monkeys often utilize their prehensile tails for navigation.

Old World Monkeys and New World Monkeys Definitions

Old World Monkeys

Monkeys characterized by a downward-facing, narrow nose.
Unlike New World species, Old World monkeys have nostrils that face downward.

New World Monkeys

Primates often characterized by prehensile tails.
The capuchin, a New World monkey, uses its tail to grasp objects and branches.

Old World Monkeys

Primates primarily found in Africa and Asia.
Old World monkeys include diverse species like baboons and macaques.

New World Monkeys

Primates that frequently inhabit tropical rainforest environments.
New World monkeys, like spider monkeys, are commonly found in lush, tropical settings.

Old World Monkeys

Monkeys that often display ischial callosities, or sitting pads.
The sitting pads of Old World monkeys facilitate comfortable resting on rough surfaces.

New World Monkeys

A primate group with molar teeth often adapted for specific diets.
Some New World monkeys have molars designed to process tough leaves.

Old World Monkeys

A group of primates with typically non-prehensile tails.
Old World monkeys often use their tails for balance rather than grasping.

New World Monkeys

Monkeys that are native to the Americas.
New World monkeys inhabit regions from Southern Mexico to Brazil.

Old World Monkeys

Primates exhibiting a range of diets and feeding habits.
Various Old World monkeys can be seen foraging for fruits, seeds, and even small animals.

New World Monkeys

Monkeys with flat, wide noses and outward-facing nostrils.
The nostrils of New World monkeys are typically wider and face to the sides.


Where are Old World monkeys found?

Old World monkeys are typically found in Africa and Asia.

What distinguishes the noses of Old World monkeys?

Old World monkeys generally have narrower noses with downward-facing nostrils.

Do New World monkeys have prehensile tails?

Yes, many New World monkeys have prehensile tails, using them for various purposes like grasping.

Do Old World monkeys have sitting pads?

Yes, many Old World monkeys possess sitting pads, known as ischial callosities.

What are some examples of New World monkeys?

Capuchins, spider monkeys, and howler monkeys are examples of New World monkeys.

How do New World monkeys’ noses differ from Old World monkeys?

New World monkeys typically have flatter, wider noses with nostrils that face sideways.

Which New World monkey is renowned for its loud vocalizations?

The howler monkey, a New World monkey, is famous for its incredibly loud and distinctive vocalizations.

What kind of environments do New World monkeys inhabit?

New World monkeys often inhabit tropical rainforests, but their habitats can vary within the Americas.

Do Old World monkeys exhibit sexual dimorphism?

Yes, many Old World monkey species, like the mandrill, exhibit noticeable sexual dimorphism, with males often being larger and more vividly colored.

Do New World monkeys inhabit diverse ecosystems across the Americas?

Predominantly, yes; New World monkeys inhabit a range of ecosystems from rainforests to savannahs in the Americas.

Are New World monkeys found in Africa?

No, New World monkeys are indigenous to the Americas.

Are there any Old World monkeys in the Americas?

No, Old World monkeys are not native to the Americas but may be found in zoos.

Do all Old World monkeys lack prehensile tails?

Yes, generally, Old World monkeys lack prehensile tails, which are more characteristic of New World monkeys.

Do some New World monkeys exhibit unique features related to their feeding habits?

Absolutely, such as the uakari, which has robust jaws for cracking hard nuts, showcasing adaptation to specific feeding habits.

Is there a difference in the social structures between Old World and New World monkeys?

Yes, social structures can differ significantly, with various Old World monkeys exhibiting complex hierarchies, while some New World monkeys showcase matriarchal structures.

Are there any critically endangered species among Old World monkeys?

Yes, some Old World monkeys, like the Miss Waldron's red colobus, are considered critically endangered.

What kind of facial features are common among Old World monkeys?

Old World monkeys often display a diversity in facial features, such as cheek pouches in macaques and striking mandrill colorations.

Which Old World monkey is notorious for crop raiding in certain regions?

Baboons, an Old World monkey species, are often noted for crop-raiding and interactions with human habitats in some areas.

Is the diet of Old World monkeys diverse?

Yes, Old World monkeys have varied diets, including fruits, leaves, and occasionally small animals.

Are New World monkeys smaller in size compared to Old World monkeys?

Generally, yes; New World monkeys tend to be smaller, though there are exceptions and a considerable range in sizes.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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