List of Nocturnal Primates

By Nancy Hayden

Primates are an ancient group of mammals with 233 known species spread between 13 different scientific families. Most primates are active during the day but members of six different families are solely nocturnal and have specific adaptations such as large eyes to deal with the dark. The other seven families may also have occasional species that are nocturnal but most of those are still active for some portion of the daylight hours.

Night Monkeys

The family aotidae, or night monkeys, consists of eight different, closely related nocturnal species. All eight species are native to Central and South America and live in tropical forested regions. The monkeys are also commonly called owl monkeys because of their large, round eyes. All species are primarily active at night, but daylight activity has been witnessed. Species in this family include Ma's night monkey, Andean night monkey, noisy night monkey and the northern night monkey.


The family tarsiidae, or tarsiers, contains seven species of nocturnal primate. They are small primates with thick fur and large eyes. All tarsiers are native to the islands of southeast Asia which include Borneo, Sumatra and Sulawesi. The primates are tree dwelling, living in the tropical rain forests of the islands. The species in this family include the pygmy, pelang, western and Dian's tarsiers.

Aye Aye

The family daubentoniidae consists of just one primate species known as the aye aye. It is a small, nocturnal animal that lives in the trees of Madagascar's rain forests. The aye aye has a long body with a bushy tail. It has distinctive hands with an elongated third digit used to locate insects under tree bark. The aye aye is completely nocturnal.

Dwarf Lemurs and Mouse Lemurs

The family cheirogalidae is a large group with 21 different living species. Commonly known as dwarf or mouse lemurs, the species in this group are among the smallest of all primates. They are all tree-dwelling, nocturnal animals which are only found wild in the forests of Madagascar. The species in this family are separated into five genera: the hairy-eyed dwarf, dwarf lemurs, mouse lemurs, giant mouse lemurs and fork-marked lemurs.

Bushbabies and Galagos

Bushbabies and galagos belong to the family galagidae which consists of 11 known species. They are a group of African nocturnal primates of small size. All species live in trees and are highly agile and fast while moving from tree to tree. Three genera of animals are found in this family: the needle-clawed and lesser and greater bush-babies.

Lorises and Pottos

The family lorisidae consists of six species commonly known as lorises. They are small, tree-dwelling primates native to Africa and parts of Asia. Closely related to the galagos family, they are also mainly nocturnal and have large eyes suited to seeing in the dark.