Outforia Quicktake: Key Takeaways
- Monkeys are omnivores and their diet varies depending on their environment and season.
- They eat fruits, nuts, seeds, eggs, lizards, animals, and insects.
- Monkeys do eat bananas but not as often as people think, and they are not their primary food source.
- Their diets can include plant and animal parts, and they are also frugivores, eating a variety of fruits.
- Some monkeys have specialized anatomy to absorb hard-to-digest plant nutrients.
Monkeys are one of the most intelligent mammals alive today. Some use tools to ease their lives. Others have particular body adaptations like prehensile tails or long fingers to scavenge for food. But when it comes to their diets, they eat plenty of things depending on their environment and season.
So, what do monkeys eat? They don’t usually eat bananas, as seen in famous cartoons like Curious George. In reality, their omnivore diet is more exciting and complex than we imagine. Let’s find out what monkeys like to eat.
You May Also Like: What Do Groundhogs Eat? Almost Anything!
What Are Monkeys?
Monkeys are a large and diverse group of mammals, including most primates. They belong to the infraorder Simiiformes or simians. There are over 200 species of monkeys, excluding lemurs, tarsiers, and lorises.
Monkeys live worldwide and come in all shapes and sizes, with unique adaptations and different lifestyles. However, one thing they have in common is that they are all social and highly adaptable. Monkeys belong to two groups: Old World monkeys and New World monkeys.
Old World Monkeys
Old World monkeys belong to the Cercopithecidae family, closely related to apes and humans. The best-known species include macaques, baboons, and proboscis. They are also known as catarrhines which means “downward-nosed” in Latin. Old World monkeys have small noses with the nostrils facing down.
Old world monkeys have unique adaptations like thumbs, which they can use to handle objects. They also have sitting pads on their behinds. They live in Africa, Asia, the Philippines, Celebes, Bacan, and the Timor islands.
New World Monkeys
New World monkeys are classified as platyrrhines or flat-noses. Their group consists of five families ranked together as the Ceboidea superfamily. You can distinguish them from the Old World monkey by their broad noses and outwardly directed nostrils.
New World monkeys include capuchins, marmosets, tamarins, squirrel monkeys, and others. What sets them apart is that some New World monkeys have a prehensile tail for grasping and swinging.
You may also like: 25 Remarkable Types Of Monkeys (Names, Photos And More)
share this image on your site
<a href="https://outforia.com/what-do-monkeys-eat/"><img style="width:100%;" src="https://outforia.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/12/what-do-monkeys-eats-infographic-1222-683x1024.jpg"></a><br>what do monkeys eat <a href="https://outforia.com">Outforia</a>
What Do Monkeys Eat?
A common misconception about monkeys is that they eat bananas all day long. In reality, their diet is far more complex. Monkeys can eat plant and animal parts to survive, making them omnivores.
In addition, many monkey species live in different climates, so their diets have adapted to the food around them. Their diverse diets include fruits, nuts, seeds, eggs, lizards, animals, and insects.
Since they cannot synthesize vitamin C, they need to eat food that has it. Monkeys are very adventurous when it comes to food, and they like to explore their possibilities. That’s why they try plenty of fruits that contain vitamins, which means they are frugivores.
Are monkeys omnivores?
Yes, monkeys are omnivores. Their diets include plants and animals to get all their nutrients. However, most primates tend to eat more plants than animal parts.
For example, New World monkeys like capuchins usually eat 50 to 80% fruits and 10% plants. The rest is miscellaneous, including animals.
Another example where a monkey tilts more towards fruits or plants is the chimpanzee. Their diet is 90% plant matter, while the rest is for invertebrates and meat products. Gorillas mainly eat plants and rarely add ants and termites to their diets.
Are monkeys herbivores?
Yes, monkeys are herbivores. Even though they are omnivores, they are more inclined to eat plants than meat products. Some monkeys even have specialized anatomy to absorb hard-to-digest plant nutrients.
For example, Howler monkeys have a long digestive tract for their leaf-eating diets. The Saki monkey eats approximately 50 species of fruits daily. Now that’s an insatiable mammal!
Monkeys have complex diets depending on where they live. Most monkeys are omnivores which means they can eat both plants and meat.
Depending on where they live, their diets will look slightly different. Their main meals consist of fruits, leaves, seeds, flowers, and insects. Let’s look at some specific types of monkeys to learn about their eating habits.
The proboscis monkeys, the ones with the big noses, have a rigorous diet. They only eat unripe fruits.
A ripened fruit is a lot sweeter than an unripe one, and it breaks down through the process of fermentation. It releases gasses in the monkey’s digestive system. The gasses will make its stomach swell up, which can cause death.
Since they need to be careful with their fruits, they only eat them from January to May and then switch to leaves for the rest of the year. They eat about 55 types of leaves, and they can also go for seeds and insects.
Black Spider Monkey
The black spider monkey really lives up to its name. One of the most known primates in Central and South America’s Amazon looks entirely like a spider with long black limbs. This monkey species is a true omnivore.
While they eat plenty of fruits and seeds, their diet includes insects and animals. For example, they will run after frogs and small birds and eat them if they can.
Lion Tail Macaque
The lion-tailed macaque is an interesting monkey with a diverse diet. It likes to eat fruit, seeds, vegetables, insects, and sometimes even small lizards. They are also very adaptable to changes in their environment. Therefore, in areas with massive logging, they broadened their food choices.
They can switch what type of fruits, shoots, pith, and even non-native plant parts they eat. They have also been spotted preying on nestlings and pigeon eggs.
The aye-aye monkey is a nocturnal primate, and it is omnivorous. However, its diet mainly consists of insects such as termites. It is adapted to its environment in ways that are uniquely suited to hunting termites.
The monkeys use their very long fingers as tools to catch the insects. With their big ears, they can detect insects within the tree bark.
When they discover them, they will use their sharp teeth to crack the tree bark and their fingers to get the insects. Aye-aye monkeys are also one of the few monkey species that eats coconuts.
Do Monkeys Eat Bananas?
Monkeys do eat bananas but not as often as you think. Monkeys that live in zoos will eat bananas. Wild monkeys don’t include bananas as their primary food source. They are not so easy to find in the wild as most banana trees are planted by people.
Bananas aren’t necessarily good for monkeys because they have a lot of calories. But unfortunately, they also contain more sugar than other fruits, leading to bad teeth, diabetes, and other severe conditions.
Most New World monkeys eat fleshy fruits, like the wooly monkeys in Columbia, whose diet is 78% composed of passion fruit, golden berries, and dragon fruits. However, while Columbia is one of the biggest exporters of bananas, monkeys do not eat them.
You may also like: Red-Shanked Douc: The Vibrant Primate Of Indochina
Why Do Monkeys Like Bananas?
Wild monkeys do not usually encounter bananas in the wild. They need to live around human settlements to be around banana plantations.
When we think of monkeys, we immediately associate them with bananas, but that’s far from reality.
Monkeys love to eat fruits, and their diet focuses on plenty of fruits. However, bananas are rarely among the fruits they ingest. Instead, they usually go for mangos, grapes, berries, pomes, and drupes.
Even some zoos avoid feeding monkeys bananas because they aren’t good for their health.
A zoo in England stopped feeding the monkeys this fruit because of high sugar levels. When given a choice between a banana and a grape, the monkeys will choose the latter.
In reality, you can compare the modern-day banana to a chocolate cake for monkeys. Today’s bananas have nothing to do with their ancestor, Musa acuminata. It took thousands of years of domestication and is very different in taste from their ancestors, as they are sweeter.
You may also like: All The 26 Different Types Of Apes: Pictures, Classification And Chart
What Foods Do Monkeys Not Eat?
Monkeys are omnivores, but there are some things that they will not eat as they can be toxic for them.
For example, monkeys do not like medicinal plants such as Tulsi, Sarpagandha, or aloe vera. Other plants like the Devil’s Trumpet are poisonous to most animals, so monkeys will also avoid it.
Chili peppers are another natural repellent for some animals like monkeys, elephants, and squirrels. Monkeys don’t like hot food, so they stay away from them. Only tree shrews and humans eat spicy food! The rest of the animal kingdom stays clear of them.
Like most wild animals, monkeys’ digestive systems are not equipped to handle human food. Therefore it isn’t good for them. Foods like bread, yogurt, and cheese are made through fermentation, which is terrible for their gut’s health.
It would be best if you didn’t feed monkeys human food because it makes them rely on humans. It will make them stop hunting for their food. In return, this harms their ecosystem because monkeys are seed dispersers. It means they help the rainforests regenerate.
You may also like: How Long Do Monkeys Live? From Old World To New World
Do Monkeys Drink Alcohol?
Yes, monkeys like to consume fruits that contain alcohol. For example, studies show that the fruits consumed by the spider monkey in Panama contain between 1 to 2% level of alcohol. Monkeys go for fermented, alcohol-containing fruits because they have nutritious value.
Fermented fruits have more calories than unripe ones. For monkeys, this translates to more energy for their daily activities. Monkeys are pretty intelligent and adventurous when it comes to their diets.
Monkey Fun Facts
Monkey diets change with the seasons. For example, monkeys will look at fruits when they are ripe and eat leaves in the second part of the year.
The smallest monkey in the world is the pygmy marmoset, with a head-body length of less than 6 inches (152 mm). Its diet is mainly tree gum. To get to the sap, it makes holes in the tree bark. Then, when the juice starts pouring, it will lick it with its tongue.
The biggest monkeys in the world are the mandrills. Mandrills eat the most seeds out of all the primates. Moreover, they are among the few primates able to bite through Detarium microcarpum seeds’ hard shells.
You may also like: The 7 Smallest Monkeys In The World: Pictures + Facts
Do monkeys eat banana peels?
Monkeys peel bananas before eating them, but if they are starving, they will eat them as they are.
Do monkeys eat snakes?
Monkeys rarely eat snakes. Usually, snakes prey on monkeys. However, Capuchins have been observed to hit snakes with sticks.
What meat do monkeys eat?
Most omnivorous monkeys eat fruits, nuts, and meat like bird eggs and lizards. However, species like baboons eat meat from hares, antelope, sheep, and goats.
Can monkeys eat human food?
Monkeys eat plants and animals, so they might be capable of eating human food. However, it’s not good for them.
Do monkeys take onion baths?
Capuchin monkeys like to rub themselves with onions. Scientists aren’t sure why but they believe the behavior is medicinal.