Fun Facts About Gorillas

endangered species
Credit: Gorilla image via Mike Price | Shutterstock

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Primates

Family: Hominidae

Genus: Gorilla

Species: Gorilla gorilla and Gorilla beringei

Subspecies: G. beringei beringei (Mountain gorilla), G. beringei grauri (Eastern lowland gorilla), G. gorilla gorilla (Western lowland gorilla), G. gorilla diehli (Cross River gorillas)

See images of all four subspecies and read more about them here:

Great Apes: All 4 Gorillas Subspecies

Basic gorilla facts:

Gorillas are mainly herbivorous apes.

A male gorilla can grow up to 6 feet (1.8 meters) in height and weigh around 480 pounds (220 kilograms), depending on the subspecies, while a female can grow up to around 5 feet (1.5 m) in height and weigh up to 215 pounds (98 kg). The lifespan of a gorilla is 35-50 years.

Like humans, gorillas have 10 fingers and 10 toes, small ears on the side of their heads, 32 teeth and forward-looking eyes.

Gorillas have a distinctive body shape and their stomachs are larger than their chests. This is because of their enlarged intestines, which are necessary to digest the very bulky and fibrous vegetation that they eat.

Due to the low nutritional quality of the food they eat, a gorilla must eat up to 40 pounds (18 kg) of food per day. In order to harvest food, gorillas have extremely well-developed arm muscles, with an upper body strength six times more powerful than a human's.

While they are capable of walking upright, gorillas predominantly walk on four limbs.

Although they have no discernible language, it is estimated that gorillas have at least 22 distinct sounds, which they use for communication.

A gorilla will typically spend a third of the day eating, a third of the day foraging for food and playing, with the rest of the time spent resting and sleeping.

Gorillas live in small family groups known as troops. The typical gorillas troop includes one silverback, a male leader, one immature male, three or four adult females and three to six young offspring under eight years of age. While gorillas are generally peaceable, conflicts can occur when troops interact, particularly if a solitary male contacts a new group.

A female gorilla is ready to reproduce when she is around eight years old. She must first leave the safety of her own troop and find another troop or a lone silverback to live with.

Gorillas are preyed upon by leopards and crocodiles.

Where gorillas live:

Gorillas are ground dwelling and primarily live in tropical forests in Africa:

The western lowland gorilla can be found in Cameroon, Central African Republic, Gabon, Congo and Equatorial Guinea.

The eastern lowland gorilla can be found in Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The mountain gorilla can be found around the Virunga volcanoes in high-altitude tropical forests in Rwanda, Uganda and Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The Cross River gorilla can be found in a small area between Nigeria and Cameroon.

Conservation status: Endangered to Critically Endangered

The Cross River gorilla is the world's rarest great ape, with fewer than 300 individuals surviving in the wild. Western lowland gorillas are the most numerous subspecies, with an estimated 175,000 individuals in the wild, according to the Smithsonian National Zoo.

Eight African nations have enacted laws to protect gorillas. The main threats to them are deforestation and fragmentation of habitat, poaching, civil wars and unrest, as well as disease transmission from humans.

Odd facts:

Gorillas are the largest living primates.

Gorilla DNA is 98 percent similar to that of a human, and gorillas are the next closest living relatives of humans after the bonobo and chimpanzee.

A newborn gorilla grows quickly, and learns to walk by six months. By 18 months it can follow its mother on foot for short distances.

Other resources:

The Gorilla Organization

IUCN Primate Specialist Group

IUCN Red List – Gorilla gorilla

IUCN Red List – Gorilla beringei

National Zoo – Gorilla Conservation

Sea World


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