Physical Characteristics

Gorillas

Physical Characteristics

Size

  1. The gorilla is the largest of all primates.
  2. Western lowland adult male gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) are about 1.7 m (66.9 in) in body length and weigh about 169.5 kg (374 lb). Adult females are about 1.5 m (59.1 in) in body length and weigh about 71.5 kg (158 lb).
  3. The western lowland gorilla is one of the smaller subspecies.

  4. Adult male mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei) may weigh up to 220 kg (484 lb) and females weigh about 97.7 kg (215 lb).
  5. Cross River gorillas (Gorilla gorilla diehli) have been difficult to study due to their shy nature. However, it is estimated that an adult male weighs about 180 kg (396 lb).
  6. Eastern lowland gorillas (Gorilla berengei graueri) are slightly larger than the western species, with adult males weighing up to 220 kg (484 lb) and females weighing about 80 kg (176 lb).

Shape

  1. Gorillas have a distinctive shape in that their stomachs are larger than their chests. Their stomach size is attributed to their enlarged intestines, which digest the bulky fibrous vegetation they consume.
  2. An adult male taking a midday rest before he resumes foraging.

Arms

  1. Gorillas have larger muscles in their arms than in their legs (the opposite is true for humans). This is primarily due to the fact that they use their increased arm strength for bending and gathering foliage and for defense. Although capable of walking upright on two feet they most often walk as a quadruped (on four limbs).
  2. The gorilla's powerful arms are used for
    defense and bending foliage.

  3. Gorillas' arms are much longer than their legs and their arm span is about 30 cm (1 ft) longer than that of an adult human male. The elongated arms indicate a tree-dwelling ancestry even though gorillas are now primarily terrestrial (ground-dwelling).
  4. An adult gorilla's upper body strength is six times more powerful than that of an adult human - enabling them to lift, break, and squeeze heavy objects.

Coloration

  1. Gorillas have dark skin and black to brown-grey hair. Males acquire silver-gray saddles across their backs and upper thighs at sexual maturity, earning them the name silverback. This silver-gray area breaks up their overall dark coloration, creating an optical illusion of increased length and larger size.
  2. An adult male silverback at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay.

  3. Lowland gorillas have shorter sparse hair whereas mountain gorillas have long and silky hair.
  4. Adult gorillas lack hair on their fingers, palms, soles, nose, lips, ears, and chest.

Dentition

  1. Gorillas have 32 teeth - the same number as humans.
  2. Gorillas have large strong teeth adapted for the coarse vegetation they consume.
  3. Adult males develop big, sharp canines as they mature.
  4. Gorillas have two full sets of teeth during their lifetime, similar to humans. The first set (similar to baby teeth) is lost and then replaced by their permanent set as adults.

Head

  1. The head of a gorilla is massive, with a bulging forehead overhanging the eyes and a bony sagittal crest on top (high-domed head). The sagittal crest (especially noticeable in males) supports the large temporal muscles needed to grind coarse vegetation.
  2. The large forehead shadows the eyes of an adult male gorilla.

    The gorilla's high domed head helps support the large temporal
    muscles needed for grinding course vegetation.

    Gorilla and human skulls.

  3. The large bulging forehead functions primarily to protect the eyes.
  4. The inset eyes of the gorilla help protect them from
    environmental and defensive conditions.

Hands/Feet

  1. The thumb and big toe of gorillas oppose the other digits (fingers/toes), enabling them to grasp and manipulate objects.
  2. Gorillas are able to manipulate objects with their feet as
    well as their hands because of their opposable big toe.

    Unlike human feet, gorillas have an opposable toe
    allowing them to grasp items with their feet.

  3. All primates have individualized fingerprints and toeprints, which may be used for identification purposes in the field.
  4. Primates have fingernails and toenails rather than claws. They are used for opening, scraping, cleaning, and scratching.

Nose

  1. Gorillas' nose regions are very distinctive in terms of the shape and wrinkles and are used by researchers to distinguish individual animals in the field.
  2. No two gorillas have identical nose-prints.

Tail

  1. Gorillas, unlike monkeys, do not have tails.

Glands

  1. Adult male gorillas have large apocrine (scent) glands in their armpits that produce a pungent odor when excited or stressed. Gorillas have apocrine (scent) and eccrine (sweat) glands that lubricate the palms of their hands and soles of their feet.