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How Close Are Gorillas Related to Humans

Formerly, Human beings were separated and put in their own taxonomic family known as the hominidae while the apes were normally put under the pongidae. This separation was mainly based on certain anatomical specialization, mainly the highly developed human brain and the unique locomotion. More recently, most experts have concluded that this view is out of date.

According to their research, the chimpanzees are the closest relatives of humans, the next in line are the gorillas. The orangutans are only remotely related to the other species.The genetic material of apes is identical to that of humans to a very large degree. Differences are especially small in the nuclear DNA. Although chimpanzees and bonobos are the closest relatives of humans, gorillas resemble us more in some respects as the account below will labor to elucidate;

The gorillas’ hands and feet resemble the human ones more than those of other apes. Gorillas spend more time on the ground than other apes. Therefore their feet are more suited to walking. This is especially true for the mountain gorillas.

Male gorilla can reach 1.7 m on average as far as height is concerned. Western gorillas are the shortest subspecies with an average height of less than 1.7 m.This is totally in resemblance to the pygmies whose height measures to a tune of 1.5m.Male western gorillas have a mean weight of 140-160 kg, male mountain gorillas 150-160 kg just like the weight of a very fat human being.

At an age of 35 or more, gorillas show distinct signs of age. Old mountain gorillas often suffer from arthritis, which mainly damages the bones in their hands and feet. They also suffer from the loss of teeth as a consequence of periodontitis, so that they have a problem with feeding. It takes them longer to feed and to travel than the other group members. Gorilla groups adjust their activities accordingly and look after the aged members, in a similar way as they treat sick individuals. Only when death is imminent, the old animals are sometimes abandoned or they retreat on their own accord. This is exactly commensurate to the human way of life after aging. They lose their teeth, develop grey hair as well as being very tired and worn out.

To date, no research has been conducted into how strong gorillas are compared to humans. Comparisons cannot be made very easily. Some people say that a silverback male is ten times stronger than a man while others claim a silverback is 27 times stronger. However, much as they are very strong, their strength is only compared to that of a human being. A gorilla male probably looks much stronger than he actually is, as he doesn’t have that much more muscle tissue than humans. Even so it is very difficult to bring gorillas under control when they are aggressive or when they are panicking. Even a four-year-old gorilla is difficult for a single person to control.

Of all primates, humans have the heaviest brain by far, averaging 1,250 g. Second comes the gorilla with a brain weight of approximately 500 g. However, brain size alone is not a reliable indicator of the animal’s mental abilities. If the relationship between brain and body weight is considered, the gorilla comes last in a comparison with the other apes and humans. Compared to chimpanzees, gorillas are calm, reserved and patient. They are less adaptable and curious than chimpanzees and they don’t show the same inclination to imitate. These two ape species have completely different characters – and that is why it is not easy to compare their intelligence.

Apes cannot learn a language in the human sense. Therefore some researchers have tried to teach them sign language. The first gorilla to receive language training was Koko. She was born in San Francisco Zoo in 1971. When she was 6 months old, Francine Patterson started to care for her and to teach her sign language. After only 2 weeks, Koko used two signs: those for ‘eating’ and ‘drinking’. After 10 years she had a good command of 500 signs and she had correctly used 1,000 signs at least once. She learnt the signs by imitation and by having her hands moved into the right position by her teacher.

According to research to date, free-ranging gorillas use tools very rarely – in contrast to chimpanzees. As there is always a surplus of food plants, there is no need to use tools. However, they are certainly capable of making tools. They use sticks to probe the depth of the water. A young gorilla male in a zoo was observed to break up a rock and to use its sharp edge to scrape off bark from a branch in order to eat it. In contrast to other ape species that often work with their mouths; gorillas use only their hands to manipulate objects. For fine movements they use either their index finger or index finger and thumb by positioning the thumb opposite the index finger. Doing this, they use their hands almost exactly like humans.