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Eastern Lowland Gorilla
Eastern Lowland Gorilla
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Primates
Family: Hominidae
Genus: Gorilla
I Geoffroy, 1853
Type Species
Troglodytes gorilla
Savage, 1847
Gorilla gorilla
Gorilla beringei
The gorilla, the largest of the primates, is a ground-dwelling herbivore that inhabits the forests of Africa. Gorillas are divided into two species and (under debate as of 2006) either four or five subspecies. With 92-98% of its DNA being identical to that of a human, it is the second closest living relative to humans after the two chimpanzee species.

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Physical characteristics
Gorilla culture
Gorillas in pop culture

Physical characteristics - Contents

Gorillas move about by knuckle-walking. Adult males range in height from 1.65 m to 1.75 m (5.4 to 5.7 feet), and in weight from 140 kg to 165 kg (305 to 360 pounds). Females are about half the weight of males. Gestation is 8½ months. There are typically 3–4 years between births. Infants stay with their mothers for 3–4 years. Females mature at 10–12 years (earlier in captivity); males 11–13 years, sometimes sooner if they assume leadership early. Lifespan is between 30–50 years. The Philadelphia Zoo's Massa set the longevity record of 54 years at the time of his death.Gorillas are mainly vegetarian, eating fruits, leaves, and shoots. Insects make up 1-2% of their diet. Due to their diet of plant life, gorillas often have bloated stomachs.Almost all gorillas share the same blood type, B.

Gorillas are renowned for their strength but no research has been conducted into how strong they are compared to humans.

Classification - Contents

Until recently there were considered to be three species of gorilla, The Western Lowland, The Eastern Lowland and Mountain Gorilla. There is now agreement that the gorilla is divided into two species of at least two subspecies each. More recently it has been claimed that a third subspecies exists in one of these groups. [1]
Western Lowland Gorilla
Western Lowland Gorilla
Primatologists continue to explore the relationships between various gorilla populations. The most recent publication (Primate Taxonomy, Colin Groves 2001 ISBN 1-56098-872-X) lists two recognized species, with four subspecies:Gorilla gorilla, Western Gorilla
  • Gorilla gorilla gorilla Western Lowland Gorilla
  • Gorilla gorilla diehli Cross River Gorilla
Gorilla beringei, Eastern Gorilla
  • Gorilla beringei beringei, Mountain Gorilla
  • Gorilla beringei graueri, Eastern Lowland Gorilla
The proposed third subspecies of Gorilla beringei which has not yet received a full latin designation is the Bwindi GorillaBoth species of gorilla are endangered, and have been subject to intense poaching for a long time. Threats to gorilla survival include habitat destruction and the bushmeat trade.

Gorilla culture - Contents

A silverback gorilla
A silverback gorilla
Gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo
Gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo
A silverback is an adult male gorilla, typically more than 12 years of age and named for the distinctive patch of silver hair on his back. A silverback gorilla has large canines that come with maturity. Blackbacks are sexually immature males of up to 11 years of age.Silverbacks are the strong, dominant troop leaders. Each typically leads a troop of 5 to 30 gorillas and is the center of the troop's attention, making all the decisions, mediating conflicts, determining the movements of the group, leading the others to feeding sites and taking responsibility for the safety and well-being of the troop.Males will slowly begin to leave their original troop when they are about 11 years old, travelling alone or with a group of other males for 2–5 years before being able to attract females to form a new group and start breeding. While infant gorillas normally stay with their mother for 3–4 years, silverbacks will care for weaned young orphans.If challenged by a younger or even by an outsider male, a silverback will scream, beat his chest, shake broken-off branches at the intruder, bare his teeth then charge forward. If he is killed by disease, accident, fighting or poachers, the group will split up or be taken over in its entirety by a male descendant or even an unrelated male; there is a strong risk that a new male may kill the infants of the dead silverback.

Intelligence - Contents

Gorillas are closely related to humans and are considered highly intelligent. A few individuals in captivity, such as Koko, have been taught a subset of sign language (see animal language for a discussion).

Natural tool use by all the "great apes"
A female gorilla exhibiting tool use by using a tree trunk as a support whilst fishing.
A female gorilla exhibiting tool use by using a tree trunk as a support whilst fishing.
The following observations were made by a team led by Thomas Breuer of the Wildlife Conservation Society in September 2005. Gorillas are now known to use tools in the wild. A female gorilla in the Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park in the Republic of Congo was recorded using a stick to gauge the depth of water whilst crossing a swamp. A second female was seen using a tree stump as a bridge and also as a support whilst fishing in the swamp. This means that all of the great apes are now known to use tools. [2].In September of 2005, a two and a half year old gorilla in the Republic of Congo was discovered using rocks to smash open palm nuts. The old assumption that higher "animals", like gorillas, don't use tools, was wrong. (Sea otters use rocks on their chests to break sea urchins). Great apes are endowed with a semi-precision grip, and certainly have been able to use both simple tools and even weapons, by improvising a club from a convenient fallen branch. With training, in 20th Century carnival and circus acts , chimpanzees have been taught to operate simple motorbikes. A baboon in South Africa operated a remotely located railroad switch, to help his companion, a disabled rural rail junction master. [3].
Gorilla beringei graueri
Gorilla beringei graueri

Gorillas in pop culture - Contents

Giant gorillas have been a recurring theme in film since the 1930s. Following their popularity in the 1930s and 40s, most notably in the films King Kong and Mighty Joe Young, gorillas came to be heavily featured in comic books. Short contrived gorilla plots where often included so that they could appear on the cover to boost sales.Gorilla suits are an eternally popular gag costume, appearing in large numbers of TV shows since the 1950s. A number of sports teams have a gorilla as a mascot usually personified by an actor in a gorilla suit.
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