When you look at the face of a Mountain Gorilla, you are looking back at our own reflection. Gorilla DNA matches 98.4% of humans, and only the Chimpanzee is a tad closer (we share 98.8% DNA). One of our closest relatives, Mountain Gorillas were almost on the brink of extinction, but are now slowly recovering with a focused conservation plan and with the help of ecotourism.
We are dividing this episode into two parts so we can dive deeper into the data of the Mountain Gorilla.
Mountain Gorilla Description
The Mountain Gorilla (Gorilla beringi beringi) is one of two sub species of the Eastern Gorilla (G. beringi). The other subspecies is the Eastern Lowland Gorilla (G. b. graueri). The other species of Gorilla, Western Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla) and is also divided into two subspecies, Western Lowland Gorilla (G. g. gorilla) and the Cross River Gorilla (G. g. diehli).
The evolution of the Mountain Gorilla follows much of our own dating back nearly 80 million years. Our earliest shared ancestor, Purgatorius, lived nearly 65 million years and was the first primate. Since, there are now over 500 species of primates, to include us, Homo sapiens.
Again, a common ancestor to the great apes (Gorilla, Human, Chimpanzee, Orangutan) was Dryopithecus, which lived over 11 million years ago in Euroasia. Eventually they migrated down to Africa, and others to East Asia. Around 6 million years ago Gorillas eventually split off to form what we know today, and the other branch eventually led to Humans and Chimpanzees.
The Eastern and Western Gorillas split off, separated by the Congo River, about 2 million years ago. The subspecies eventually formed around 350,000 years ago, around the time we, Homo sapiens, finally appeared.
Mountain Gorilla Facts
Male gorillas stand on average 6 feet (1.8 m) and weigh around 400 lbs (180 kg). Females tend to be shorter at 5 feet (1.5 m) and 200 lbs (90 kg). Mountain Gorillas differ from the other subspecies by having longer soft black hair, and broader chests. The Western Gorillas tend to have brown hair on top of their foreheads.
Gorillas in the wild live 35 to 40 years. Under human care, they can live up to 50 years old. Colo, the world’s oldest gorilla lived to be 61 at the Columbus Zoo in Ohio.
Stay Tuned for next weeks Part II as we cover more about the Mountain Gorilla!