Gorilla

Gorillas are herbivorous apes, dwelling on the ground, mostly inhabiting the forest areas around the central parts of Sub-Saharan Africa. Being the largest of all the living primates, the genus of these mammals comprises two species, namely the eastern and western gorillas, both of which remain critically endangered. They share a similar DNA to humans, being their next closest kin after bonobos and chimpanzees.

Gorilla Scientific Classification

Animalia
Chordata
Mammalia
Primates
Hominidae

List of Common Types of Gorilla Species

The eastern and western gorillas, as mentioned above, have two subspecies each. The subspecies of the eastern gorilla are the mountain gorilla and eastern lowland gorilla. Whereas, that of the western gorilla include the western lowland gorilla and cross river gorilla.

  • Eastern gorilla
  • Eastern lowland gorilla
  • Mountain gorilla
  • Western gorilla
  • Western lowland gorilla
  • Cross River gorilla

Gorilla

Appearance and Physical Description

Size: An adult male gorilla has a height of about 5 to 6 feet (1.5 to 1.9 meters).Their arm span ranges between 8 and 9 feet (2.4 to 2.7 meters). The females are shorter in size, having a smaller arm span.

Gorilla Size

Weight: They are big mammals, with the average weight of the males being about 330 to 375 pounds (150 to 170 kg). In captivity, they can reach a weight of about 683 pounds (310 kg).

Color: Most of them have a dark coloration, with the shades differing from one species to the other.The western lowland gorilla has a gray or brown body with a red forehead.  The adult males on maturity attain silver hair patches on their backs. Similar to humans, they also have dark brown eyes, with their iris having a black ring.

Head: They have a massive head and a bulging forehead which overhanging their eyes.  

Hand: Their large, well-proportioned hands, all of which have nails. Most of them have big-sized thumbs.

Face: They have a long face, more prominent in males than females.

Gorilla Face

Nose: Gorillas have a distinctive nose with wrinkles.

Teeth: They have 32 teeth similar to humans. In fact, throughout their lifespan, they have two sets of teeth, the first being lost and replaced by permanent ones.

Tail: They are an exception as monkeys do not have a tail.

Feet: Their foot is large with opposable thumbs.

Distribution

Their distribution is patchy, occurring in different parts of Africa. The western and eastern gorilla dwells in the west and east-central Africa, respectively.

Where Do Gorillas Live

The habitats of gorillas differ from one species to the other, with diverse elevations. The eastern gorillas, as well as their subspecies, dwell in the montane and submontane forests. The altitude is about 2130 ft. to 13120ft. The western gorillas, on the other hand, inhabit montane and also lowland swamp forests.

Gorilla Habitat

How Long Do Gorillas Live

Gorillas have a life expectancy up to the age of 35 to 40 years on average. However, when kept in captivity they have a longer lifespan, with those in the zoo surviving for about 50 years.

What Do They Eat

Gorillas mostly remain confined to a vegetarian diet, which differs from one species to the other. Mountain gorillas feed on stems, shoot, pith, and leaves, with fruits occupying a minimal part of what they eat. The diet of the eastern lowland gorillas is diverse, changing seasonally. Besides pith and leaves, fruits also hold about 25% of the food. These species are also known to eat insects, particularly ants. Western gorillas rely more upon fruits, and like their eastern counterparts, go on to thrive on ants and termites.  Most of them do not drink water as the majority of the moisture content is attained from the succulent vegetation they consume.

Behavioral Characteristics

  • Most of them dwell in groups comprising of an adult male, many adult females, alongside their children.
  • The silverback male leads their group. After his death, the females, as well as their children, go in search of a new troop.
  • These intelligent mammals are known to display emotions expressing their happiness and sadness through gestures and vocalizations.
  • In multiple male groups, the males mostly have weakened social bonds, though they display a friendly behavior, by playing and staying united.
  • They are mostly shy, amiable, and peaceful unless threatened. The males, however, may showcase their strength by beating their chest using their fists, when standing in an erect posture.
  • To alert or warn members of their groups, a particular male might let out a hooting sound.
  • Their nests made up of leaves and branches. They are mostly constructed on the ground or even on trees for them to sleep or rest.
  • Those with a light body may often swing from one tree to the other using their arms.
  • They show aggression when attacked by growling loudly and displaying other exaggerated physical movements.
  • These mammals mostly move about using their knuckles, though Mountain gorillas use their fist and hand too while walking.
  • Gorillas also bipedally (using their legs) though to cover short distances, especially when carrying food or defending against their predator.
  • They forage and feed for about fourteen hours in a day and rest for the remaining ten hours.

Adaptations

  • Because of their opposable thumbs, they can get a firm grip on things and gather food with ease.
  • Their opposable toes assist them in climbing trees with convenience.
  • The feet of these mammals are sturdy at the bottom, helping them to move with ease grass, rocks, or several difficult terrains.
  • Since they have big, sharp teeth, they can grind the coarse vegetation and chew them with ease.
  • The presence of finger and toenails help them in opening things with ease, as well as performing other activities like cleaning, scratching, or scraping.
  • Male gorillas have apocrine or scent glands under their armpits through producing a pungent smell when stressed or excited.
Male Gorilla

Mating and Reproduction

Males and females take 11 to 13 years and 10 to 12 years, respectively, to mature. Females get their ovulatory cycle at 6 followed by adolescent infertility lasting for two years. Their estrous period spans 30 to 33 days, though the number may vary from one species to the other. They can birth babies from 10 years of age, as seen in mountain gorillas. The male species are polygamous, and they have no particular mating season; hence, it may go on all year round.

In most cases, the females go on to seek attraction of their male counterparts through several physical gestures. Gorillas also follow a face-to-face mating technique, like humans. In groups comprising several males, the females may have to copulate with many of them.

 Most have an interbirth interval of approximately four years. Similar to humans, a single offspring is born per delivery, though there may be a possibility of twins in rare cases.

The young gorillas weigh about 4 pounds (2 kgs) and are majorly dependent on their mothers to survive. The males do not play an active role in the upbringing of their children but positively socialize with them. For the initial five months after birth the infants remain in close contact with their mother and also stay with them in one nest. Their juvenile period begins at 3 and stays still 6.

Baby Gorilla

Communication

Gorillas have about 25 distinct recognized vocalizations to communicate with one another when in a group. The familiar sounds include barks and grunts, especially when they travel or at the time of social interactions. Roars, grunts, and screams are warning signs mostly produced by the silverback males. Deep and rumbling belches symbolize a sense of satisfaction, primarily audible when feeding or resting.

Conservation

In the IUCN Red List, all of the species, as well as subspecies, have been enlisted as Critically Endangered. The western and eastern lowland gorillas have a population of 10,000 and 5000 respectively in the wild. The mountain gorilla has been severely endangered, with just 800 existing in the wild. Habitat destruction and poaching remain the two main reasons for the depletion in their numbers. Several hundreds of gorillas in the Republic of Congo’s Odzala National Park fell victim to the Ebola virus, their population being wiped out.

Of the various initiatives taken to conserve these species, the Great Apes Survival Project is significantly formed as a collaborative effort between the UNEP and UNESCO. The Agreement on the Conservation of Gorillas and Their Habitats coming into effect since 1st June 2008, is the first legal approach for safeguarding these mammals.

Female Gorilla

Gorilla-FAQs

1. When were gorillas discovered?

Though no specific date exists regarding their discovery and it may vary from one species to the other. For instance, German officer, Captain Robert von Beringe discovered the mountain gorilla in the year 1902.

2. Which is the largest gorilla?

Phil and eastern lowland species stood 6.6 feet tall and weighed 860 pounds.

3. What is a group of gorillas called?

A troop or band.

4. What is a silverback gorilla?

Silverback is a term referred to as the older male gorillas since their shoulders and backs have grayish-white hairs while they age. Most silverbacks are 12 years and above in age and also possess big, canine teeth that come with maturity.

5. What is a baby gorilla called?

An infant

6. Is gorilla a monkey?

No, it is an ape.

7. Are gorillas omnivores?

They are mostly herbivores. However, some may have an omnivorous diet, consuming termites and ants.

8. Which is the tallest gorilla?

The tallest gorilla, a silverback, was 6 feet 5 inches in height.

9. What is a male and female gorilla called?

The adult males are silverbacks, while the females have no specific names.

10. What are the predators of the gorillas?

Besides humans, gorillas do not have too many enemies apart from leopards.

11. Are gorilla primates?

Yes, the largest of all living primates.

Interesting Facts

  • The oldest gorilla to survive was Colo, a female monkey who lived for 60 years and passed away on 17th January 2017. She remained in Ohio’s Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.
  • They are highly intelligent animals, with a gorilla named Koko taught sign language techniques.
  • According to an observation made in 2005 by the Wildlife Conservation Society led by Thomas Breuer and his team, gorillas in the wild have been observed using tools. A female species was seen using a stick. It seemed as if she was checking the depth of the water in a bid to cross the swamp.
  • In a game sanctuary at the Republic of Congo, a gorilla aged 2.5 years was seen seeking the help of rocks to open peanut shells.
  •   They have been immensely popular in films, featured in many of them like King Kong and Tarzan.
  • They can walk about 20 miles an hour on their knuckles.
  • Researchers worked upon Makumba, a male gorilla, and concluded that he could turn his smell on and off based on his requirements.
  • Gorillas have immense strength, and when compared to humans, they are about 4 to 10 times than the latter.