14 Animals With Opposable Thumbs

animals with opposable thumbs

Animals acquire a few traits that really provide them an edge in their environment.

However, one specific trait offers countless benefits to a few species: the animals with opposable thumbs. 

Amazingly, such a small, particular feature can have such a big effect. It would be impossible to create art or music without opposable thumbs.

Since there wouldn’t be any writing, complicated language most likely wouldn’t exist. 

That’s only the very beginning. There are not many animals with opposable thumbs besides humans, but those that exist will be well-represented on our blog list below.

We will also go over what opposable thumbs are and the benefits they offer.

Let’s get started! 

1. Human

Humans - Animals With Multiple Hearts
by hapal is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Humans are one of the animals with opposable thumbs used extensively daily. Thanks to our thumbs, we can use many tools and do extremely delicate operations.

Over the ages, we have continuously pushed the boundaries of technology thanks to our intelligence and deft use of our thumbs and fingers.

All of the world’s continents are home to humans. Though we can live in isolated regions with harsh weather conditions, such as tundras and deserts, most of these animals with opposable thumbs prefer to live in warm, temperate regions conducive to a comfortable lifestyle.

2. Chimpanzees

Chimpanzees - Animals That Walk on Two Legs
by wwarby is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Chimpanzees are also one of the animals with opposable thumbs. They can hold branches with both hands and feet because they have opposable thumbs and large toes. 

The thumb is farther out from the other fingers on their hands than on human hands because of their larger length and narrower hands.

Their hands are more suited for grasping branches and climbing trees, even if ours are designed to manipulate little objects precisely.

3. Gorilla

Gorillas - animals with fangs
by Dave Stokes is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Like chimpanzees and other primates, gorillas can climb trees but reside in groups on the ground. Gorilla hands and feet thus resemble human hands and feet a little bit.

4. Orangutan

by chem7 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Most of the time, red-haired apes called orangutans live high in trees. Orangutans possess opposable thumbs and toes, just like other great apes. 

On the other hand, these animals with opposable thumbs do not live in groups like other great apes do. Males usually live alone, while females will reside with their young.

They are restricted to the rain forests of the two Southeast Asian islands of Borneo and Northern Sumatra, from where their range was once much larger.

5. Baboons

Baboons - animals with fangs
by TheGrantPeters is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The thumbs of baboons and other old-world monkeys, including Colobus monkeys, are opposable.

The tails of old-world monkeys, such as baboons, are not prehensile; that is, they cannot grab and hold objects. 

In addition to having opposable thumbs, new world monkeys such as the Capuchin monkey have prehensile tails.

These ground-dwelling animals with opposable thumbs are found in northern African open woodlands. 

There are certain species found in Saudi Arabia. Baboons live in packs of up to 150 and are omnivores with a strong social structure.

6. Kaola

by sixintheworld is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

For six opposable digits, koalas have two opposable thumbs on each front paw and one opposable toe on each foot.

Their additional two opposable thumbs help them maintain their grasp on branches since they live in towering eucalyptus woods. 

Most koalas’ lives are spent in trees; they rarely come to the ground unless they search for a new tree that offers a better food supply.

Only eastern Australia and a few islands off its coasts, both in the south and east, are home to koalas.

Despite not being classified as endangered by Australia, less than 100,000 koalas are thought to remain in the wild due to population declines over the past century.

7. Chameleons

Chameleons - Animals With Green Eyes
by anubis333 is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Baby chameleons are ready to take on life from the moment they are born. They don’t need nursing and can start eating flies and insects immediately.

Once excavated from their subterranean nest, they can walk and move quickly. They swiftly reach the trees after birth, clear of potential ground predators. 

And they will live most of their arboreal lives in the trees. Their opposable digits on all four limbs and their prehensile tails, which they may utilize as an extra limb for balance, help them survive in the trees.

On their front limbs, these animals with opposable thumbs have two digits that extend outward to form a “graspable” appendage and three digits that extend forward.

These orientations are inverted on their hindlimbs, where three fingers stretch outward and two fingers forward.

8. Pandas

Pandas - Animals With Black Eyes
by George Lu is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Panda is also on our list of animals with opposable thumbs. The sixth front toe on both the red and giant pandas is opposable.

This physical modification makes it easier to hold and consume their main food, bamboo shoots and leaves.

9. Brushtail Possum

Brushtail Possum 
by Greg Schechter is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Brushtail Possums are endemic to Australia but are also common in New Zealand. People refer to possums as the Virginia Opossum (below). 

They are primarily considered pests by certain people and feed mostly on leaves and insects.

Though they are found throughout western and northern Australia, Brushtail Possums are primarily found in the east and southeast of the country, making them arguably the most widely distributed marsupial in all of Australia.

10. Virginia Opossum

Virginia Opossum 
by btrentler is licensed under CC BY 2.0

In North America, opossums are the sole marsupials not to be confused with possums. On their hind leg, they have an opposable fifth toe that is nailless.

They can even hang upside down briefly, thanks to their prehensile tails.

The sole possum species present in the United States is the Virginia opossum, sometimes known as the common opossum, which is most frequently connected to backyard wildlife within its habitat.

Its range extends south into Mexico, Central America, and most of the country’s eastern region.

11. Grivet

by schizoform is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Grivet monkeys are restricted to the African subcontinent. They are found in Senegal and Ethiopia all the way down to South Africa, where they belong to the vervet monkey family.

Grivet monkeys live near rivers and streams in forests, woodlands, and savannas. The majority of their time is spent in the trees.

The opposable first digits on the vervet monkeys’ hands and feet enable them to grasp objects.

These animals with opposable thumbs can move, feed, and groom themselves using their hands. 

Uniquely powerful hind legs allow for impressive branch-jumping abilities. When they jump from branch to branch, their long tails are utilized for balance, steering, and braking rather than being prehensile.

12. Gibbons

Gibbons - Animals that Mate for Life
by Thomas Tolkien is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Primate members of the “Hylobatidae” family include gibbons.  They are referred to as lesser apes since they are very different from great apes, which include humans, gorillas, chimpanzees, and orangutans.

These include their smaller size and pair bonding, their lack of nest building, and several anatomical features that give them a closer resemblance to monkeys than to giant apes. 

With their slender frames, gibbons are uniquely suited to swing beneath the branches that hang from their arms.

These animals with opposable thumbs occasionally make big swings and release the branches completely, but they never hold the branches with their fingers.

13. Old World Monkeys

Old World monkeys - Animals That Sweat
by Marco Bellucci is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Apart from geographic location, new-world monkeys differ from old-world monkeys in a few characteristics.

Similar characteristics that frequently set the types apart include opposable thumbs and tails. 

While opposable thumbs are common in many old-world monkeys, they are far less common in new-world monkeys. These are a few ancient world animals with opposable thumbs like these.

14. Bonobos

by Keith Roper is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The most amiable of the big apes is most likely the bonobos. These animals with opposable thumbs are sometimes connected to the adage “make love, not war” because of their peaceful disposition.

They are a totally different species from the “pygmy chimpanzees” that were also known by that name in the past.

Despite sharing similarities with chimpanzees, bonobos are tiny primates primarily consuming plants.

Of all the great apes, these are the socialist because of their excellent networking and bonding skills. They enjoy playing together and spending time together, as well as grooming.

They are primarily found in the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s lowland jungles and swamp forests.

It is well known that bonobos employ complicated hand gestures and language, with various vocalizations and gestures signifying many meanings contingent on the context or circumstance.


Although not unique to primates, this group of animals is most frequently discovered to possess opposable thumbs.

These animals with opposable thumbs have evolved to live in trees, and their opposable thumbs make it easy for them to hold branches and navigate the forest canopy.

Furthermore, monkeys perform many functions with opposable thumbs, including feeding, grooming, and using tools.

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