Get A Grip! Animals With Opposable Thumbs That Will Amaze All Kids | Kidadl


Get A Grip! Animals With Opposable Thumbs That Will Amaze All Kids

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Imagine not having thumbs?

You are likely to have a tough time doing routine things like eating, drinking, and holding things. Interestingly, humans are not the only ones born with opposable thumbs.

Wait, but what is an opposable thumb? It is the thumb's ability to bend and touch the tips of other fingers and toes at the same time. The Center of Academic Research & Training in Anthropogeny defines this physical feature as the ability and flexibility of the thumb to bend and flex, abduct, or even rotate. This cool limb is able to touch any other finger's tip. Humans are not the only species on the planet with this incredible physical adaptation. Members of the primate family have opposable thumbs as well. Primates such as orangutans, macaques, gorillas, and chimpanzees all have thumbs. They evolved this physical ability to grasp and maneuver tree branches to survive. Eating, grooming, grasping, and using tools are some tasks that become possible with this physical feature. However, monkeys and apes are not the only members of the animal kingdom that have evolved this gift. Opossums, koalas, pandas, and arboreal frogs are the other species.

Find out more about animals with opposable thumbs and related topics. If you're looking for more fun facts, check out animals with big eyes and animals with adaptations, Kidadl articles, and continue to be amazed.

Animals With Opposable Thumbs

Have you seen a panda eating? The bamboo shoot will be tightly grasped in its hand, just as humans would eat it. This is possible because both species have something in common: opposable thumbs.

There is no specific term for groups of animals with opposable thumbs. By definition, a thumb is an opposable thumb. It has the ability to bend, flex and touch every other finger in the hand and foot. It allowed humans to improve upon their motor skills and also became a catalyst to the development of implements. In the world, like humans, other primates like monkeys and apes also have opposable thumbs. Surprisingly, there are other species like giant pandas and tree frogs who have thumbs. This group of species is just referred to as animals having opposable thumbs. However, human thumbs are longer increasing the precision of performing related tasks.

But do you know who was the first to have this remarkable ability in the animal kingdom? It was a dinosaur. Recently, the earliest known example of a species with the opposable thumb was discovered in China. The pterosaur species is believed to be 160 million years old and has been named Kunpengopterus antipollicatus or Monkeydactyl as it has been nicknamed by the researchers. Two opposable thumbs were spotted when a CT scan was conducted on the fossil. The flying reptile used this special limb for grasping tree branches. This is quite a cool fact since it is rare to find species outside the world of primates who have evolved with this condition.

Great apes such as chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans; Old World monkeys such as baboons and Colobus monkeys, and lesser apes such as gibbons are the primates that have opposable thumbs. But not all primates have this ability. For example, tarsiers and marmosets do not have thumbs.

Reasons Why Animals Have Opposable Thumbs

What do you use your thumb for? Just like humans, animals use the thumb and fingers on their hands and feet to perform a million important day-to-day tasks.

The American Museum of Natural History suggests the primary reason for this physical evolution among primates was their association with trees. Thumbs make it easier for a monkey to keep a strong grip on branches.

Animals, including humans, have evolved opposable thumbs as a physical adaptation. Just like the thumb enables you to keep a steady grip on items, eat food, climb trees, and groom yourself, animals are also able to do the same. A koala or any other species with this gift uses it to move effectively from one tree branch to another. Monkeys use it for grooming each other. Other primates use their thumbs to climb trees, peel fruits, use tools, and other related functions.

Below are the reasons why species around the world have opposable thumbs.

The thumb helps in maintaining grip when climbing or holding on to tree branches.

The thumb helps in using various implements to build livable spaces or forage for food.

Grooming becomes possible when fingers include a thumb.

Group of orangutans sitting on tree.

Squirrels And Raccoons Do Not Have Opposable Thumbs

While it may look like they have thumbs due to their human-like behavior, it is due to other adaptations. Both squirrels and raccoons use their forepaws to perform such activities.

When you imagine a squirrel, an image of one sitting and casually eating an acorn with their paws might have popped up. It might resemble how a human child eats fruit with his or her hand. In the case of squirrels, their forepaws have long toes that give them the ability to grasp objects like food with ease. They do have a small protrusion that is mistaken for an opposable thumb. This small flesh has limited capabilities, unlike opposable thumbs. The grace by which it climbs a tree can also confuse anyone. The fact is that the squirrel's forepaw has four fingers while the hind paw has five fingers. But the asset that allows it to have a solid grip on the tree or any other surface is its claws. The sharp claws are what make squirrels descend and ascend trees with utmost ease.

Another myth is that raccoons have opposable thumbs. It is difficult to believe otherwise, especially when you spot raccoons opening a packet of chips like a pro. Well, it is the raccoon's child-like paw that gives this impression, but it's not true. These mammals lack thumbs instead use their forepaws like squirrels (in a more adept manner) to do the many human tasks like eating, peeling, opening, and washing. They need both hands to perform these functions, unlike animals with opposable thumbs. The digits you see on their hands are all fingers, merely five long ones. The side digits can actually touch together, allowing this mammal to open that garbage can to scavenge a meal or steal food items.

Mammals With Opposable Thumbs

Apart from primates like monkeys and apes, other mammals like opossums, koalas, pandas, and some species of frogs have opposable thumbs. Here is why.

Primates like gorillas, chimpanzees, orangutans, and gibbons belong to the Hominidae family, which is the same for humans. This is the reason for the resemblance between us and a monkey or apes. Like humans, apes and monkeys can do things like use tools to forage for food or build a home. The opposable thumb also enables these primates to grasp and climb tree branches, have a strong grip on surfaces, and so on.

Apart from a primate, there are other animals who possess this adaptation of having thumbs in their hand. Common examples include opossums, koalas, pandas, and even some arboreal frogs. This list of animals with opposable thumbs does not use this adaptation as effectively as a primate though.

Only found in the US, the opossum belongs to the Didelphidae family. In the case of the opossum, the opposable thumb is located in the hind feet. They are able to climb trees and perform other vital functions using these thumbs and their prehensile tail.

For the panda, a giant carpal bone acts as the opposable thumb allowing it to feed on its favorite food, bamboo shoots, with absolute ease. On the other hand, a koala has two opposable thumbs that let it maintain a tight grip on the branches.

You will be amazed to know that some tree frogs also have opposable thumbs. These are used to move through branches of trees.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for animals with opposable thumbs, then why not take a look at animals with horns, or animals that live in trees.

Written By
Moumita Dutta

<p>A content writer and editor with a passion for sports, Moumita has honed her skills in producing compelling match reports and stories about sporting heroes. She holds a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the Indian Institute of Social Welfare and Business Management, Calcutta University, alongside a postgraduate diploma in Sports Management.</p>

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