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A Bit Of Gorilla Love February 20, 2008

Posted by Mrs Weird Scientist in Animals, Evolution, Psychology and Behavior, Think About It.
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It seems that primates have gotten a lot closer. Not only have researchers recently observed primates in the wild- specifically gorillas – copulating face-to-face, but they have captured the first known photographs of the surprising event. Why surprising? It’s because very few primates actually mate in the face-to-face position. There is also a neat, complicated word for it called ventro-ventral copulation. It makes all of this gorilla lovin’ sound like a very technical act! What is the usual position for primates? Well actually, the majority of primates copulate in the dorsal-ventral position. This means that both primates are facing in the same direction.

Gorillas Copulating

Credit: Thomas Breuer – WCS/MPI-EVA. The female gorilla in the photo was nicknamed ‘Leah’ by researchers. She’s also familiar to researchers, who originally observed her in 2005 when she tested the depth of a pool of water with a stick, before splashing her way into it. This action was also considered unusual behaviour for a gorilla, which has piqued the interest of researchers even more. I think Leah sounds like a cool lady who likes to do things a bit differently!

Ready, Set, Camera Action

The study was led by Thomas Breuer of the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in cooperation with the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology (MPI-EVA). The findings were published in the Gorilla Gazette. If you’re wondering where these pictures were taken, they were snapped in all their glory at the Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park in the Republic of Congo. According to Breuer:

Our current knowledge of wild western gorillas is very limited, and this report provides information on various aspects of their sexual behavior. We can’t say how common this manner of mating is, but it has never been observed with western gorillas in the forest. It is fascinating to see similarities between gorilla and human sexual behavior.

It’s also worth noting that other than humans, only a handful of animals have been observed mating face-to-face. These include bonobos and the observation of gorillas in captivity although none were ever photographed.

What’s The Big Deal?

You might be thinking to yourself that scientists are really peculiar (if you didn’t think so already!) to care about animal copulation or to even be taking pictures of animals mating. Think again! It actually does matter. Since gorillas are considered ‘cousins’ to humans, learning more about their behavior helps us to understand the evolutionary development of our own species. Speaking of our species, I almost considered being a typical lovey dovey girl by putting a red heart in above the gorilla picture!

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Comments»

1. David Bradley - February 21, 2008

That gorilla couple aren’t actually kissing though are they? Does that remain a uniquely human sexual activity?

Meanwhile, apparently humans caught pubic lice from gorillas. I must stress it wasn’t the scientist who took that photo though…

db

2. Miss Weird Scientist - February 21, 2008

Interesting question. Another one I wonder is that if it is currently uniquely human, will it remain so? I will check out your article – I’m still reading and enjoying your blog quite regularly these days although not commenting quite so much.

3. Miss Weird Scientist - February 21, 2008

Update: I had a quick read but I chuckled through it because of the picture you used! That is one grumpy-looking beast!

4. jenn - February 21, 2008

that picture is cute!

5. Miss Weird Scientist - February 21, 2008

Well it is cute and looks like they are hugging/holding each other. However, they are doing quite a bit more than that, of course. Hehe.


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