Western gorilla

Gorilla gorilla

SUBFAMILY

Homininae

TAXONOMY

Gorilla gorilla (Savage and Wyman, 1847), Gabon Estuary, Gabon. Two subspecies.

OTHER COMMON NAMES French: Gorille; Spanish: Gorila.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Largest of the terrestrial primates, demonstrating extreme sexual dimorphism. Females generally weigh about 150 lb (68 kg), males may approach 400 lb (181.4 kg). Hair is generally black over most of the body, red to brown on the crest of the head. Mature males sport silver hair on their back.

DISTRIBUTION

West Africa, including Nigeria, Cameroon, Gabon, extending into Congo, and Central Africa Republic. Gorilla gorilla gorilla, Cameroon; Gorilla gorilla diehli, border area between Nigeria and Cameroon, extending into the forest of the upper Cross River.

HABITAT

Found in primary and secondary forest, may venture into swampy clearings as well.

BEHAVIOR

Polygamous social system. Mixed sex groups generally include one dominant male, multiple adult females, and offspring. Variations may be seen in which more than one adult male is present. Males may also travel alone, or congregate in bachelor groups.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Consume a variety of types of vegetation and fruits. Meat-eating has not been documented, and tool use appears to be absent.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Females show no physical signs associated with ovulation, but give behavioral signals that invite copulation. Mating system is polygamous, and adult males repel rivals who may attempt to lure females away. Infanticide by rival males is well known.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Endangered.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

Populations are being severely affected by unsustainable hunting for meat. ♦

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