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Taking time to observe gorillas

Hello, it’s Allie, a member of the Primate Care Team. Have you ever noticed the way our 3-year-old gorilla, Mijadala, chases after her siblings in the family troop? Or the way Lulu protects and gently carries infant Floyd? These are some of the many similarities you may notice between gorillas and humans. Like humans, every gorilla has a distinctive personality, and like humans, gorillas have facial expressions. Not only are many gorilla behaviors similar to ours, but gorillas are also very similar to humans genetically. Geneticists believe that we share 98% of our genetic sequence with gorillas. That’s amazing!

But part of what also makes gorillas amazing is the ways they are different from us in adaptations and behaviors. If you watch the family troop, you’ll probably find that some of the juveniles (Merry, Anaka and Andi) often run bipedally (upright on two legs), but a typical form of locomotion for gorillas is to walk on their knuckles. Unlike our own hands, the skin on gorillas’ hands has a tough layer of keratin that is especially found on their knuckles. Keratin, if you didn’t already know, is a protein found in fingernails, hair, horns, claws, etc. This enables gorillas to walk all day on their knuckles, protecting their fingertips.

Thanks for taking the time to learn a little more about gorillas. Stop by and observe for yourself next time you’re at the Zoo!
Allie C.
Keeper I, Primates

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