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Behaviour of Humans and Gorillas

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Gorillas are believed to be the immediate predecessors of humans or the closest relatives of humans. Gorillas are the largest living primates. The DNA of gorillas is highly similar to that of a human. Experimentally it is proved that the DNA of gorillas and humans has 95 - 99% similarities. Because of this, humans and gorillas have lot similarities in their physical appearances. Moreover, psychological behaviours of these two species have also lot of similarities. This paper briefly analyses the similarities and differences between the behaviours of humans and the gorillas.

Similarities and differences between the behaviours of humans and the gorillas

Gorillas' natural habitats cover tropical or subtropical forests in Africa. They live in dense forests and lowland swamps and marshes as low as sea level. Most of the available gorillas can be seen in the Central West African countries like Congo, Rwanda etc. On the other hand, humans are living in open places. Humans have the superior mental abilities than the gorillas and hence they rule the entire world and the living things. Humans make houses, cultivate agriculture and make industrial equipments for the betterment of his life whereas gorillas have no such abilities.

Gorillas move around by knuckle-walking, even though sometimes they walk bipedally for short distances whereas human always walk or run bipedally.  Both humans and gorillas have almost similar heights; Adult males of gorillas may have around 1.65–1.75 meters (5 ft 5 in–5 ft 9 in) whereas adult males of humans may have 1.65 to 2 meters in length. Even though humans have superior heights compared to gorillas, gorillas defeat humans in weight measurements.   An adult male gorilla may have 140–200 kg in weight whereas the adult male humans may have 60 to 100 kg only. 

Gorillas, chimpanzees, and bonobos are dark-colored, while orangutans are reddish brown. All have arms that are longer than their legs. Gorilla and orangutan males are twice as big as females. Great apes have forward-facing eyes for three-dimensional (height, width, and depth) viewing. They have powerful fingers and toes for gripping branches. They have no tails. Humans differ in skin color, depending on the amount of the pigment melanin in their skin. The body is hairless, except for the head, armpits, and genital areas. Scientists suggest that early humans had shed their fur to prevent over-heating when chasing their prey, and developed sweat glands on the skin surface to cool the body by perspiring. The subcutaneous fat, or the fatty layer under the skin, preserves body heat when the environment gets cold and serves as an energy source when food is scarce. Humans possess a distinct trait, bipedalism (bye-PED-ul-ih-zem), or a mode of locomotion on two legs. Strong, muscular legs are adapted for upright walking. The S-shaped curve of the spine keeps an erect human from toppling by distributing the body weight to the lower back and hips (Great Apes and Humans: Hominidae - Behavior And Reproduction, Great Apes And People, Bornean Orangutan (pongo Pygmaeus): Species Accounts - PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS, GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET, CONSERVATION STATUS, n. d)

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Both gorillas and humans have two mammary glands, and they make use of this gland for nurturing their young. But as the time progresses, human made some adjustments in their behaviour; nowadays humans diverted from the above practices and use powdered milk in place of the breast feeding in order to feed their offspring. On the other hand because of the inferior mental abilities, gorillas has not developed much and they still breast feed their offspring. Gorillas also have large cerebral cortex like the humans which is essential the development of perception, language, attention, memory, thought and consciousness. Even though gorillas may not have a well developed language system like the humans, still they are able to communicate each other using their own languages. Humans make use of different languages to communicate each other because of the cultural or racial differences whereas gorillas may have only a single language which is applicable to all the gorillas in the world.

Sensory perceptions of Gorillas may have some common elements with that of the humans and hence their courting and mating may have similarities with that of the humans. Like the humans, gorillas can also be infatuated towards their female counterparts since they have sex hormones similar to that of the humans. But the gorillas don’t have a well developed cerebral cortex which prevents them from developing as rapidly as the humans. Morality, ethics, and philosophy are unknown things to the gorillas whereas humans are always driven by such thoughts.

The researchers studied the behavior of great apes at play because their behavior is less likely to be affected by the strengths and ranks of the competitors as they would be in a serious context, such as interactions related to food. It was likely that the lessons learned in play fighting helped apes deal with real conflict, and that by ‘role-playing’ the chaser and the chased the apes would develop more refined and sophisticated communication skills. The study indicated that these chase roles of the gorillas were distinct with the ones doing the chasing predominantly showing a play face and hitting the other ones once they reach them (Great apes 'play' tag to keep competitive advantage (w/ Video), 2010)

Humans have more developed emotions and intelligence than the gorillas

Because of this humans always like to dominate in activities. They engage in sports and games or plays in order to achieve recognition by defeating the opponents. On the other hand, gorillas don’t have such motivations. They like to play, but the purpose of the play is for better communication purpose and also for a better physical activity to maintain their health. Jealousy, enmity, egoism, personality complexes like the humanly characteristics are absent in gorillas. Gorillas consider games or plays like the human children.  They never engage in serious battles like the adult humans. They enjoy their games very much.

Felix Warneken at Harvard University has cited "promising evidence" for collaborative behavior in gorillas. However, Josep Call, at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, says he has seen this behavior in chimpanzees before. Iona Stewart at ZSL London Zoo, who has been looking after captive gorillas for 13 years, says there is "no question" that gorillas have theory of mind. "Anyone who spends time with gorillas will have known this for years," she says. "Not a day goes by when you don't see some example of this sort of behavior." The typical gorilla sense of humour, Stewart says, is Schadenfreude. One gorilla she knew would poke a stick at strangers then look the other way. "If they could whistle, they'd be whistling, but they're not quite clever enough to get away with it" (Hamzelou, 2010)

Conclusions

Humans and gorillas have lot similarities and differences in their behaviours. Humans have superior mental abilities and intelligence compared to gorillas. Even though gorillas are the closest relatives of humans, their behaviours have more similarities with that of the animals. But in appearances, they are more similar to the humans.

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