The five most athletic primates are named in the world's most comprehensive guide on primates, "Handbook of the Mammals of the World" (Lynx Edicions, 2013), released this week.
The number one athletic monkey, according to the guide, is the Patas monkey. Editors Russell Mittermeier, Anthony Rylands and Don Wilson write that these "are the fastest primates, relying on their speed to escape from predators." Their running speed can reach up to 34 miles per hour.
The indri is the largest living lemur. "Its hind limbs propel it through the trees in leaps up to 30 feet," according to Mittermeier, Rylands and Wilson. The leaps allow the lemur to efficiently travel high in the forest canopy, where it searches for food such as tender leaves, seeds, fruits and flowers. The leaps also often allow it to jump out of the way of predators, like hawks that can go after young indri.
The weight-lifting champ of the group is the bearded capuchin. These primates "can lift heavy rocks and smash them down to crack open palm fruits," according to the editors.
The bearded capuchin, also known as the black-striped capuchin, was the first non-ape documented to use tools in the wild. Over the years, the monkeys have evolved strong back and leg muscles that enable them to walk on their hind legs while carrying stones.
"Long-tailed macaques are skilled swimmers and can catch fish with their own hands," Mittermeier, Rylands and Wilson share. These primates sleep in trees alongside rivers, taking time to select their roosting sites. When a predator approaches, they frequently jump into the water and swim out of harm's way.
"Gibbons are masterful acrobats, swinging hand over hand with uninterrupted leaps through the forest canopy," according to the editors. Their relatively tiny size -- about 20 inches long -- makes them even faster as they glide through the air. Their swinging lifestyle allows them to exploit fruits and other foods that larger bodied arboreal animals cannot reach.