Can Monkeys Swim? Ape-solutely Amazing Facts All Kids Should Know

Anamika Balouria
Jan 22, 2023 By Anamika Balouria
Originally Published on Oct 25, 2021
Fact-checked by Pradhanya Rao
read how do monkeys swim
Age: 3-18
Read time: 7.3 Min

A few monkeys are recognized for their sedentary behavior, while others are known for their legendary antics found in treetops and their swimming underwater.

Have you ever spotted a monkey swimming around in the water? This really sounds strange and weird, but yes, there are species of monkeys that are known to swim in the water.

Monkeys are a primate animal species that are known best for their evolution in the world. These primate species are best known to live in evergreen rain forests or mostly in a dense mountain habitat where they spend a happy life. Generally, monkeys are land animals, but most of them inhabit trees, especially upper canopies of trees.

Monkey bodies are such that they are not familiar or adapted to living in the aquatic habitat for many reasons. Their body weight is a possible reason.

If a monkey is fat, then it would really be difficult for the primate to swim in the water. Most of the monkey species swim instinctively because they are primates who have evolved over a period of time, but some of these abilities still exist in them.

Monkeys such as the proboscis monkey, macaques, squirrel monkeys and spider monkeys, are known to swim in deep rivers. Some monkeys only reside near coasts.

Chimpanzees are quick and smart learners. Along with them, the great ape or the orangutan is also known to swim and dive into the river. The hypothesis around monkeys' evolution is that a few monkeys can only leap from branches of trees, while a few can even swim underwater and on the surface of rivers.

If you enjoy reading this article about monkeys swimming, then do read some other interesting and surprising fun facts articles about if gorillas are omnivores and if hamsters can swim.

Which types of monkeys can swim?

Great apes, chimpanzees, and orangutans swim like humans and are also known to dive in deep river water. Apart from them, macaques, red howler monkeys, proboscis monkeys, squirrel monkeys and spider monkeys are known to swim across open waters.

Monkeys can swim because their fingers and toes have been built in such a way that this animal species can be good swimmers. They can hold their breath underwater for few minutes, and most mammals around the world have this ability, which is similar to that of a human.

Though humans and monkeys are often thought to be related, their evolutionary history has resulted in significant differences over a period of time.

Most monkey mammals, especially apes, do have the inbuilt ability to swim in water or a river. Proboscis monkeys can swim are natural swimmers.

The streamlined body of proboscis monkeys along with their webbed fingers and toes makes them smart primates who easily dive in the water. Proboscis monkeys leap from tree branches, and they have adapted to the aquatic environment during floods. The conservation status of proboscis monkeys is listed as Endangered by the IUCN.

Macaques are another smart monkey species similar to a proboscis monkey. Macaques are known to live along coastal areas and spend most of their time on land.

The habitat of macaques is such that they have to dive deep into the water to feed on aquatic food such as crabs and small crustaceans. Macaques are not like proboscis monkey species, because the latter is more familiar with and likes water.

It is believed that spider monkeys along with squirrel monkeys of the Amazon rainforest are known to swim across rivers and streams of the region. So, they must be well acquainted with swimming in water bodies.

Howler monkeys are good swimmers and have good eyesight, which helps them swim and see things at a great distance.

These monkeys can actually swim with the appropriate coordination because of possessing a flattened physique, superior hydrodynamics, and an appropriate fat mass balance. Those monkey that do not possess these attributes are not really excellent swimmers.

Why can't all monkeys swim?

Not all species of monkeys can swim due to their different body types and varied habitat.

A few monkey species can swim in the water, but not all species of these animals are good swimmers or may not even like swimming. You might see monkeys in a zoo or in their natural habitat, but underwater site seeing is rare.

This is because not all mammals are acquainted with swimming. The proboscis monkey is no doubt a good swimmer, but not all monkeys in the world have the same habitat or body type as proboscis monkeys do.

A few monkey species are not able to swim like humans because of their body fat and heavy weight, while a few of them have never ever been trained or faced a situation where they have to attempt swimming in water. Apes such as chimpanzees and orangutans can swim but generally try to avoid water.

Characteristics of monkey species, such as soft fur and living in a family, make them best suited to living in trees.

According to some of the research done, it is found that apes' evolution and their semi-aquatic features, like those of swimmers, have also led to their hair loss. Though apes have semiaquatic features, they even fear water and swimming at times.

They fear sinking or drowning in the water. Zoo authorities have often used water moats for these animals in order to save them from drowning, and it was found that these monkeys could hardly breathe underwater in the zoo pool.

A monkey can go 65.6 ft (20 m) deep into the water for food. Conservation of the monkey species is a must for their survival.

Otherwise, they have to face hardships of natural calamities due to rare habitat changes. A few also believe that the furry body of the monkey makes it difficult for them to swim because the wet fur of the body increases their body weight.

learn which type of monkeys can swim

Can newborn monkeys swim?

No, a newborn monkey cannot swim in the water because it might get stressed out seeing water due to its terrestrial habitat dwelling.

A newborn monkey is just like any other baby who gradually learns things around its habitat. According to a few resources, even ape babies failed at swimming in the water when they were being trained in a zoo. Though baby monkeys are smart and quick learners, they need time to get used to the new environment.

Though no such proboscis monkey baby or infant has been reported to be seen swimming, it is believed that these monkey species' infants would also have the capability to swim in the water. Though infants might not be able to swim in water that is too deep, they are able to float on the water surface.

Due to a variety of factors, such as their body weight, monkey bodies are not experienced with or evolved to live in an aquatic ecosystem. If a monkey is overweight, swimming is quite difficult for the primate. Because they are primates who have developed over time, most monkey species swim intuitively.

Can monkeys swim and stay underwater?

Yes, a few species of monkeys can swim underwater and even hold their breath for up to two to three minutes.

The proboscis monkey is known to prefer water and swim in the water like trained swimmers with the help of their webbed fingers and toes. These proboscis monkeys are known to live in swampy areas and can easily swim in the water.

In such habitats, even baby monkeys learn to swim.

It is believed that this species can go deep down in the water. These monkeys can go up to 65.6 ft (20 m) deep into the water and, at the same time, can dive to the same depth in the water.

These monkeys can stay in the water and hold their breath for two to three minutes. Through some reports, it has been evident that some monkeys that live in natural flood areas can travel or swim up to 4.7-6 mi (7.5-10 km) a day in order to search for their food.

A few of these monkeys can hardly swim 0.6-1.2 mi (1-2 km).

A few monkey species have bodies with physical attributes that allow them to swim in the water due to hydrodynamics. These monkey species bodies' hydrodynamics is a type of biomechanics that allows them to exert forces with their muscles to propel themselves ahead in the water.

So far, little has been known or researched about the paddling behavior of different monkeys. Presumably, as most of the species have still not been extensively identified in nature, learning about such uncommon swimming behaviors of other species of monkeys requires extensive research and fieldwork investigation.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for can monkeys swim, then why not take a look at can you own a monkey in California or proboscis monkey fun facts for kids?

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Written by Anamika Balouria

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English, Bachelor of Education specializing in Secondary Education and Teaching, Master of Arts specializing in English

Anamika Balouria picture

Anamika BalouriaBachelor of Arts specializing in English, Bachelor of Education specializing in Secondary Education and Teaching, Master of Arts specializing in English

A dedicated and enthusiastic learner, Anamika is committed to the growth and development of her team and organization. She holds undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in English from Daulat Ram University and Indira Gandhi Institute for Open Learning respectively, as well as a Bachelor of Education from Amity University, Noida. Anamika is a skilled writer and editor with a passion for continual learning and development.
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Fact-checked by Pradhanya Rao

Bachelor of Commerce specializing in Marketing and HR

Pradhanya Rao picture

Pradhanya RaoBachelor of Commerce specializing in Marketing and HR

With a Bachelor’s degree in Commerce from Christ University, Bangalore, Pradhanya's passion for the English language and literature led her to explore the field of content writing, where she has gained extensive experience in writing, reviewing, editing, and fact-checking. She has also earned certifications in Google Ads Search, Google Ads Display, and Social Media Marketing, showcasing her proficiency in digital marketing.

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