Human evolution is one of the most captivating topics in anthropological studies. It involves comparison of humans and other several primates or apes which include; Chimpanzees, Bonobos, Orang-utan and Gorillas. The most recent and controversial debate on human evolution comes from the comparison of genomes of humans and the other primates. The comparison has proven that humans are related to Gorillas and Chimpanzees with their genomes having a similarity of 97% – 98.67% (Mosher, 2012). This essay aims at giving a detailed description on Gorillas and how they are closely related to humans. Studying and revealing more facts about Gorillas in this essay may be important in gaining more insights on how man is related to such an ape. This will help in answering some of the questions raised by anthropologists on the genome closeness between Gorillas and humans. In addition to this, the facts discussed in this essay may help in explaining why Gorillas are becoming an endangered species and probably give solutions to this.
Most gorillas live in tropical rain forests of Africa which are the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda and Uganda. . Gorillas are divided into two species namely Gorilla beringei and Gorilla gorilla. It is important to note also that from the gorilla species, there is two subspecies for each of them. Gorilla beringei has Gorilla beringei beringei and Gorilla beringei graueri as subspecies while Gorilla gorilla has Gorilla gorilla diehli and Gorilla gorilla gorilla as the subspecies (Groves, 2012). From the four subspecies we have common names; mountain gorilla, western lowland gorilla, eastern gorilla and eastern lowland gorilla. These species with different distinctive characteristics came about after the area where they were all living split into two during ice ages. Each of these species of gorillas has its own habitat. Those known as western gorillas and are found in Ubangi and Congo rivers, while the eastern gorillas are found in Rwanda and Uganda. Western and eastern gorillas are divided into subspecies. For the western gorillas there are the western lowland gorilla found in the lowlands of River Congo with marshy and subtropical forests and cross river gorilla and live in the sub-mountain forests and sometimes in the swampy forests. On the other hand, for the eastern gorilla there is the eastern lowland gorilla which live in the lowland old-growth forest, bamboo forests, and mountain forests and occasionally in the swampy forests and the mountain gorilla lives in the mist-covered mountain forests. Gorillas have their own survival mechanisms such as a long adaptation process and this helps them live under their specific conditions, and the areas they inhibit should therefore have resources that meet this conditions. That is why all their habitats have the characteristic of either tropical or subtropical forest.
Just like humans and chimpanzees, gorillas are members of the family group Hominidae and are all known as primates. According to a research that was conducted, more than 11000 genomes were compared between humans and gorillas and certain genes were found to differ by 1.6%. This gives a similarity percent of 98.4% between human and gorilla genomes. The same study done comparing the genes of gorillas and chimpanzees revealed that the genes had a 98.2% similarity (Berggorilla & Regenwald Direkthilfe, 1994). Although the chimpanzees and the bonobos are the closer relatives of humans than the gorilla, it resembles humans more than the other apes. This is characterized by the resemblance of its hands and feet to those of humans and it is also said that the hearing genes of gorillas has also evolved in a similar rate to that of humans.
Additionally their sight and sense of smell is also very comparable to that of humans. Just like humans, gorillas live in large family groups and their life expectancy is very close to ours. They transform from childhood to maturity level to old age at almost the same ages as humans. Probably this is the reason why they are all estimated to be closely related and to have a common ancestor. The distinguishing factor however is that, all the primates have a different Genus group with humans belonging to genus Homo, chimpanzees belonging to genus Pan and gorillas belonging in genus Gorilla. The mountain gorilla is the largest and rarest. It has a broad chest and considered very strong. The male mountain gorillas develop a streak of silver hair on their backs when they mature and are called “silverbacks”. Gorillas are known to be the largest of the great apes (chimpanzees, bonobos, Orangutans and gorillas) and have a lifespan of about 53 years (World Animal Foundation, 2018).
The feeding and behavioral habits of gorillas are different according to the species. The mountain gorilla on average live in groups of about 12 members consisting of one male, several females and their offspring. The alpha male is usually concerned in protecting its females than the territory. He also determines resting places, feeding areas and settles conflicts within the group. The relationships between the male and females is very strong while the relationship between females is fairly weak. When the offspring have grown they scatter and become independent and in the process form their own groups and the cycle continues. Since they live at attitudes above sea level, leaves stems and buds is what is constituted in most of their diets. The others are a few fruits, flowers and roots as well as invertebrates (World Animal Foundation, 2018).
On the other hand, the eastern lowland gorilla live groups of 20-30 members consisting of a dominant silverback male gorilla, subordinate males, female adult gorillas which are not related and 4-5 young gorillas. The female gorillas once they have matured live their birth groups and join male gorillas to form other groups. They’re very weak bonds between unrelated female gorillas. However, those that are related often mentor one another. They use branches and leaves to make nests at night (World Animal Foundation, 2018). Their diet constitute mainly of leaves and other vegetation and rarely eat fruits. On most cases they feed in the morning rest in the midday and continue in the afternoon.
Moreover, the western lowland gorilla spend a lot of time eating and travelling as compared to resting and other social activities. Normally, they travel 3-5 kilometers per day. Although they prefer travelling in area in the home range, occasionally they follow a seasoned pattern depending on the availability of ripe fruits. They change their behavior pattern according to the change in their diet. They have the least number members usually on average of 4-8 led by more than one adult males usually a father and his son. The leader is the one in charge of organizing activities that the group members will engage in such as eating and nesting. The alpha male takes the protective role while the females form bonds with each other, though stronger bonds are those between males and females. Though they are generally calm and nonaggressive, they will only portray aggression when competing for females. Though their diets mainly consist of fruits, they also eat leaves, stem, caterpillars, ants and termites. Sometimes, they also feed on aquatic plants.
Furthermore, the cross river gorilla live in family groups consisting of 2-20 members, a dominant male, 6-7 females and their offspring. The prevailing makes decisions such as where to feed as well as where to rest. They also protect their females and offspring from attacks. In the rainy seasons they build nests on tree branches to protect themselves from the water while on dry seasons they build them on the ground. They are aggressive mostly towards humans and even throw branches and stones. Their diet mainly consist fruits, leaves, stems and invertebrates. They also feed on herbs occasionally. Their large and rounded abdomen is as a result of long intestines for digesting. On some circumstances during some seasons the Afi Mountain gorillas prefer the plants of the genus Aframomum.
For the longest time, there has been cordial relationship between humans and animals. It has gone to an extent of forming very tight bonds between each other. Both animal and human survival and existence is dependent on each other. There has also been a development of a mutual relationship between humans and animals. This is evident in that, while humans provide the domestic animals with food and shelter, they in turn provide them with protection in cases of dogs and cats. Cattle provide milk, meat and blood to their human owners and in turn they are given care, protected from wild animals and given treatment when sick. Animals offer companionship to humans where they are taken as pets. In such scenarios, the pets are treated equally as other family members. Animals have also provided humans with transportation means in cases of horses, donkeys and camels. Animals are also a source of entertainment to humans. This is whereby they are used in circuses and also those put in zoos provide humans with pleasure when they see them.
The relationship between humans and animals is on constant growth as the interdependence with each other increases. It is to be believed that a time will come when they will be able to coexist with each other. Gorillas need to be protected away from poachers and natural hazards since they are an endangered species. Gorillas remain not only an important source of information about the origin of humans but also, a beauty to the natural earth setting.
Groves, C. (2002). A history of gorilla taxonomy. Gorilla Biology: A Multidisciplinary Perspective. Cambridge University Press. pp. 15–34.
Berggorilla ; Regenwald Direkthilfe (1994). How closely are Gorillas related to us? Gorilla Journal.
World Animal Foundation. (2018). Gorilla fact sheet. Worldanimalfoundation.Com https://www.worldanimalfoundation.com/ Accessed 21 Mar 2018.
Mosher, D. (2012). Gorillas More Related to People Than Thought, Genome Says. National