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10 Animals With Opposable Thumbs & Why It Matters

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Animals with opposable thumbs include bonobos, chimpanzees, apes, opossums, koalas, baboons, pandas, gorillas, and lemurs. Many birds also have an opposable digit, but not a thumb.

Do you know what opposable thumbs are? They’re basically a human’s best friend. With them, we can do all sorts of things like grip a steering wheel, pick up a pen, or open a door. 

But did you know that some animals also have opposable thumbs?

There are quite a few creatures out there with extra-special hands that help them thrive in the wild. 

If you’re an animal lover and want to see some of the most jaw-dropping creatures on the planet, read on.

10 Animals With Opposable Thumbs

Most animals have four limbs, each with three to five digits (fingers or toes), but a select few have an opposable thumb. This means that they can grip and hold objects as humans can. 

Here are a few of the most interesting animals with opposable thumbs:

  • Humans
  • Bonobo
  • Chimpanzee
  • Ape
  • Opossum
  • Koala
  • Baboon
  • Panda
  • Gorilla
  • Lemur

1. Human

human hands writing
Scientific NameHomo Sapien
Common NameHuman
Animal ClassMammalia
DietVarious types of foods including fruits, nuts, vegetables, grains, tubers, and animal products
HabitatVarious animal habitats like forests and grasslands

Humans are animals with opposable thumbs. The thumb is the most opposed of all the fingers, and allows for a great deal of dexterity and precision in tasks such as writing, picking up small objects, and so on.

Humans are the only species of animal with opposable thumbs that can also use them for tasks such as writing and using tools[1]

This is because humans have evolved longer and more flexible thumb joints, as well as longer and more dexterous fingers.

Opposable thumbs are an important part of what makes humans unique, and they allow us to do things that other animals simply cannot do.

2. Bonobo

Bonobo
Scientific NamePan paniscus
Common NameBonobo
Animal ClassMammalia
DietFruits, leaves, flowers, bark, fungus
HabitatForests south of Congo River

Bonobos have opposable thumbs, which they use to grab things, climb in the trees with ease, and open fruit. They also use their hands to groom each other, and care for their offspring.

A bonobo, also known as a pygmy chimpanzee, is a species of great ape. The bonobo is distinguished by its relatively long legs, pink lips, dark face and tail-tuft through adulthood, and the lack of sexual dimorphism between the sexes. 

Although bonobos are not currently endangered, their habitat is threatened by deforestation and bushmeat hunting.

Bonobos are found in the forests of the Congo Basin in Central Africa. They are one of the closest living relatives to humans, sharing 98.7% of their DNA. Bonobos are considered to be more intelligent than other great apes, and they have been known to use tools.

3. Chimpanzee

Chimpanzees
Scientific NamePan troglodyte
Common NameChimpanzee
Animal ClassMammalia
DietInsects, filter feeders, hatchlings, and eggs of loggerhead turtles
HabitatSandy shores and tropical subregions worldwide

Chimpanzees have both opposable thumbs and toes, allowing them to grip things with their hands and feet. They’ve been observed to use weapons and tools, and use their hands to walk, referred to as “knuckle walkers”.

Chimpanzee is the common name for two closely related species of apes: the Common Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes), which lives in sub-Saharan Africa, and the Bonobo (Pan paniscus), which lives in the forests of the Congo Basin.[2] 

Both species are members of the family Hominidae, which includes humans.

Chimpanzees are our closest living relatives, sharing about 99% of our DNA. They are intelligent and capable of using simple tools. Chimpanzees are also the only animals other than humans that have been observed to make and use weapons.

The Common Chimpanzee is the more widespread of the two species. It is found in 21 countries across sub-Saharan Africa. The Bonobo is found in a single country, the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Both species are endangered, due to habitat loss and hunting. Chimpanzees are hunted for their meat, which is considered a delicacy in some cultures. They are also captured and sold as pets or used in the entertainment industry.

4. Ape

Ape
Scientific NameHominoidea
Common NameApe
Animal ClassMammalia
DietFruits, plants, leaves, roots, shoots, stems
HabitatJungles, savannas, mountainous areas

Apes have opposable thumbs which they use to climb, interact with each other, communicate, and more. They’re known to be capable of learning sign language, which is a testament to their intelligence.

Ape is a common name for any of the tailless Old World primates of the family Hominidae, including humans. The apes are native to Africa and South Asia. Ape is also used as a common name for any member of the superfamily Hominoidea, which includes all apes, as well as humans.

The family Hominidae is divided into two subfamilies: the great apes, and the lesser apes[3]

The great apes are further divided:

  • Gorilla
  • Chimpanzee
  • Orangutan
  • Gibbon lineages

The lesser apes include the following:

  • Siamang
  • Douc langur
  • Colobus monkey

Apes are found in both the wild and in captivity. In the wild, they typically live in rainforests, but some species can be found in savannas, woodlands, and mountains. In captivity, apes are often kept as exotic pets or used for entertainment at zoos and safari parks.

They are intelligent creatures and have been known to use tools. They are also capable of learning sign language and other forms of communication.

5. Opossum

Opossum
Scientific NameDidelphidae
Common NameOppossum
Animal ClassMammalia
Dietgrass, nuts, fruits
HabitatForested and bushy habitats

Opossums have opposable thumbs. They also have prehensile tails, both of which they use to climb. This sets them apart from many of their relatives.

The opossum is a marsupial of the order Didelphimorphia endemic to the Americas. The largest order of marsupials in the Western Hemisphere comprises 103 or more species in 19 genera. The opossum is a relatively recent arrival in the Americas, having colonized the continent within the last 70 million years. 

An adaptable animal, the opossum thrives in a wide range of habitats and is able to survive on a diet of highly nutritious leaves, fruits, and small animals.

While opossums are typically nocturnal animals, they are sometimes active during the day. Activity periods vary depending on species, season, and weather conditions. Most species of opossum are solitary animals, but some live in pairs or small groups.

The female opossum has a marsupium, or pouch, in which she raises her young. After they are born, the young climb into the marsupium and attach themselves to a teat, where they will stay until they are weaned.

6. Koala

Koala
Scientific NamePhascolarctos cinereus
Common NameKoala
Animal ClassMammalia
DietEucalyptus leaves, lophostemon leaves, corymba leaves
HabitatOpen forests and woodland communities

The Koala is a small marsupial with opposable thumbs. It is found in Australia and its natural habitat is eucalyptus forests. Koalas are proficient climbers and can often be seen high up in the trees.

Koalas’ diet consists almost exclusively of eucalyptus leaves. The leaves are tough and not very nutritious, so koalas spend most of their time resting. They are mostly nocturnal animals, coming down from the trees to feed at night.

It is listed as a vulnerable species, due to habitat loss and declining populations. However, its numbers have been slowly increasing in recent years.

7. Baboon

Baboon
Scientific NamePapio
Common NameBaboon
Animal ClassMammalia
DietBerries, seeds, pods, leaves, blossom, roots
HabitatSemi-arid habitats such as savannas and bushlands

Baboons have opposable thumbs. Like other monkeys with opposable thumbs, they use this functional digit to grasp objects and climb more efficiently.

Baboon is a term applied to various medium-sized Old World monkeys. There are five species of baboons:

  1. The hamadryas baboon
  2. The Guinea baboon
  3. The olive baboon
  4. The chacma baboon
  5. The yellow baboon

All of these species are native to Africa. Baboons vary in size and weight depending on the species but typically weigh between 30 and 80 pounds. They are considered intelligent animals and have opposable thumbs on their front paws, which allows them to grip and manipulate objects.

Baboons are social animals that live in groups of up to several hundred individuals. They are omnivorous, eating both plants and animals.

As aggressive animals, baboons have been known to attack humans. They are also considered pests in many areas due to their tendency to raid crops. In some areas, baboons are hunted for their meat and fur.

The hamadryas baboon is the largest of the five species, weighing up to 120 pounds. It is found in Ethiopia, Somalia, and Yemen. The hamadryas baboon is characterized by its long, silky fur, which is typically blonde or light brown in color. The females of this species are significantly smaller than the males.

8. Panda

panda bear eating bamboo
Scientific NameAiluropoda melanoleuca
Common NamePanda
Animal ClassMammalia
DietBamboo
HabitatTemperate forests

Pandas have opposable thumbs, which they primarily use to grab bamboo sticks. Their diet almost exclusively consists of bamboo, which they sit around and chew on with their opposable thumbs.

The Panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca), also known as the giant panda, is a bear species native to south-central China. It is easily recognized by the large, distinctive black patches around its eyes, over the years, and across its round body. 

The name “panda” is derived from the Nepali word “ponya”, which means “bamboo eater”.

Panda bears are an endangered species, with a wild population of around 1,864. They are among the world’s most popular animals and are frequently used in advertising and media. Despite their high profile, little is known about pandas in the wild, as they are shy and reclusive animals.

While pandas are often thought of as vegetarian animals, they actually have a diet that is about two-thirds bamboo and one-third meat. Their diet consists mostly of bamboo shoots and leaves, but they will also eat small mammals, fish, and birds.

9. Gorilla

Gorilla solo
Scientific NameGorilla
Common NameGorilla
Animal ClassMammalia
DietStems, bamboo shoots, fruits
HabitatLowland tropical forests of Central Africa

Gorilla is a genus of primates that includes the eastern gorilla and the western gorilla, both with opposable thumbs. They are known to grab sticks to use as weapons.

Gorillas are ground-dwelling, predominantly herbivorous apes that inhabit the forests of central Africa. The eastern gorilla is more populous than its western counterpart, with an estimated population of 5,000 individuals compared to the Western gorilla’s estimated population of 400 individuals. 

They are the largest living primates. They are distinguished from other primates by their large size, massive build, and relatively short limbs.

Gorillas live in family groups of usually five to ten individuals, led by a silverback male. The typical lifespan of a gorilla is between 35 and 40 years. They are generally shy and peaceful but have been known to attack humans if provoked.

10. Lemur

Ring-Tailed Lemur
Scientific NameLemuroidea
Common NameLemur
Animal ClassMammalia
DietFruits, insects, saps, shoots, barks
HabitatRainforests, dry deciduous forests, wetlands

The lemur is a primate that lives in Madagascar. They are among the primates with opposable thumbs on all four feet as they don’t have hands. This allows them to grip branches and climb trees easily. 

Lemurs come in many different sizes and colors, and they are very active during the day. Some of the most popular Lemurs are the Ring-tailed Lemur, Mongoose Lemur, and the Brown Lemur.

They are very social creatures, living in groups of up to 30 individuals. They communicate with each other through scent, sounds, and body language. Lemurs are also very curious creatures, and they love to play.

Lemurs are an endangered species due to habitat loss and hunting. There are many different conservation efforts underway to help protect lemurs and their habitat.

FAQs

Do Raccoons Have Thumbs?

No, raccoons do not have thumbs. They are intelligent animals and have five fingers, which allows them to grip and manipulate objects. However, they lack the opposable thumbs. This is one of the key differences between raccoons and other primates.

Do Platypus Have Opposable Thumbs? 

Platypuses lack opposable thumbs. This means that they are not able to grip things as tightly as animals with opposable thumbs. Animals with opposable thumbs have an evolutionary advantage because they can hold onto tools and weapons, which gives them an edge in survival. Platypuses, on the other hand, do not have this advantage.

Do Hamsters Have Opposable Thumbs?

No, hamsters lack opposable thumbs. However, they make up for this deficiency with their powerful claws, which allow them to climb and dig effectively. Hamsters are also proficient swimmers, using their tails to propel themselves through the water. Overall, though they may not have thumbs, hamsters are still very capable creatures.

Do Tarsiers Have Opposable Thumbs?

No, tarsiers do not have opposable thumbs. Their hands are specially adapted for grasping and clinging onto tree branches. Tarsiers are small primates that are found in Southeast Asia. They are the only living members of the family Tarsiidae. Tarsiers are known for their large eyes and long hind legs. They are also the only primates that are strictly carnivorous, eating mostly insects.

Do Monkeys Have Opposable Thumbs?

Yes, monkeys have opposable thumbs. This means that they can grip objects with their hands and hold on to them tightly. This is a big advantage for monkeys, as it allows them to easily grab branches and swing from tree to tree. Opposable thumbs give monkeys the ability to open up coconuts and eat the tasty meat inside.

Do Squirrels Have Opposable Thumbs?

No, squirrels do not have opposable thumbs. They have claws. Their claws help them hold on to objects and climb trees. Squirrels are still able to do many things that require dexterity, such as opening nuts and seeds. This is because they have very nimble front paws. Their tails also help them to keep their balance while they are climbing.

Do Frogs Have Opposable Thumbs?

Frogs do not have opposable thumbs. This is because their front limbs are not developed enough to allow for this type of movement. frogs use their webbed feet to help them swim and climb, which means that they don’t need opposable thumbs. Some people believe that frogs may have rudimentary opposable thumbs, but this has not been proven.

Do Bears Have Thumbs?

No, bears do not have opposable thumbs. Bears are one of the most popular animals in the world, and their paws are a big part of why. Bear paws are large and furry, and they look like they would be perfect for cuddling. But there’s one key difference between bear paws and human hands: opposable thumbs.

Do Apes Have Opposable Thumbs?

Yes, apes have opposable thumbs that allow them to grip and hold onto objects. This is a key difference between apes and other primates, such as monkeys. Opposable thumbs give apes greater dexterity and flexibility in their movements. Additionally, opposable thumbs are an important adaptation for the tree-dwelling lifestyle.

Do Koalas Have Opposable Thumbs?

Yes, koalas have opposable thumbs. The opposable thumb is a great adaptation for these marsupials as it allows them to climb trees easily and grab leaves to eat. Thanks to their opposable thumbs, koalas are able to live in the treetops and avoid predators on the ground.

Do Fish Have Opposable Thumbs?

No, fish do not have opposable thumbs. Fish don’t have fingers. Instead, they have fins, which are specifically adapted to increase their swimming abilities.

Do Tortoises Have Opposable Thumbs?

No, tortoises do not have opposable thumbs. Tortoises are reptiles and most reptiles do not have opposable thumbs. Opposable thumbs are a characteristic of mammals, which tortoises are not. Some reptiles, such as chameleons, have an “opposable digit”, though it is not the same as an opposable thumb.

Do Salamanders Have Opposable Thumbs?

No, salamanders do not have opposable thumbs. While they have four toes on each foot, these are not individually mobile and therefore cannot be used to grip objects in the same way that an opposable thumb can.

About Misfit Animals Staff

The Misfit Animals staff consists of animal lovers, pet enthusiasts, veterinarians, zoologists, and other animal experts. Our goal is to provide people with information on proper animal care.

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