Conservationists with the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology have found that larger male gorillas living in the rainforests of Congo seem to be more successful than smaller ones at attracting mates and even raising young.
This is an adult male gorilla -- also known as a "silverback" (far right) -- with a family group in Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park in the Republic of Congo. Conservationists from WCS and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology recently discovered that larger male gorillas are more successful than smaller ones at attracting mates and raising young.
Credit: Thomas Breuer/WCS
The study—conducted over a 12-year period in Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park in the Republic of Congo—helps to illuminate the selective pressures that influence the evolution of great apes.
The study appears in a recent edition of Journal of Human Evolution. The authors of the study include: Thomas Breuer of the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology; and Andrew M. Robbins, Christophe Boesch, and Martha M. Robbins of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.
In assessing the role of size in the reproductive success of "silverback" gorillas, the researchers selected three physical factors for measurement: overall body length; the size of the adult male's head crest (also known as a sagittal crest which is absent in females); and the size of an individual's gluteal muscles on the animal's posterior. The researchers then compared data on individual size with information on group dynamics to explore possible correlations between physical characteristics of adult males, the number of female gorillas connected to males, and the survival rates of an adult gorilla's offspring.
The results of the study revealed that all three characteristics were positively correlated to an adult male's average number of mates. In other words, the bigger the adult male, the more mates it had. An unexpected finding was that only head-crest size and gluteal muscles were strongly related to offspring survival (measured as infants that survived to weaning age) and overall reproductive success, measured as the number of surviving offspring.
"Our findings of correlations between physical traits and male reproductive success could be considered evidence of a selection process in gorillas, but it is not yet proof," said Breuer, the lead author of the study. "More studies would be necessary to determine the links between morphology and fitness in this and other long-lived species."
The research is the latest of several studies of gorillas made from the ideal research conditions of Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park's Mbeli Bai, a large, swampy forest clearing where gorillas (and scientists studying them) gather for long periods. From 1995 until 2007, the team followed the lives of 19 adult male western lowland gorillas and their family groups from observation platforms with telescopes and cameras. Over that time, the researchers were able to track the number of females each male mated with, and the number and survival rate of offspring produced by each adult male.
The gorilla group data was complemented by physical measurements of adult male gorillas by using a novel, non-invasive method called digital photogrammetry, which produces accurate measurements of individual gorillas and their characteristics from digital images (converting pixel size to actual lengths).
"By using non-invasive methods for measuring the size of individual male gorillas and their features, we are gaining insights about the factors that could be driving mate selection in our closest relatives," added Breuer.
"Studies such as these—ones that examine the subtle dynamics of gorilla interactions—are only possible in the stable conditions created in protected areas such as Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park," said Dr. James Deutsch, Executive Director for WCS's Africa Program.
This study was made possible through funding from the Brevard Zoo, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, Cleveland Zoological Society, Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, Dublin Zoo, SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund, The Toronto Zoo, the Wildlife Conservation Society, and The Woodland Park Zoo.
John Delaney | EurekAlert!
Northeast-Atlantic fish stocks: Recovery driven by improved management
04.02.2019 | Johann Heinrich von Thünen-Institut, Bundesforschungsinstitut für Ländliche Räume, Wald und Fischerei
New mathematical model can help save endangered species
14.01.2019 | University of Southern Denmark
An international research team including astronomers from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has combined radio telescopes from five continents to prove the existence of a narrow stream of material, a so-called jet, emerging from the only gravitational wave event involving two neutron stars observed so far. With its high sensitivity and excellent performance, the 100-m radio telescope in Effelsberg played an important role in the observations.
In August 2017, two neutron stars were observed colliding, producing gravitational waves that were detected by the American LIGO and European Virgo detectors....
Up to now, OLEDs have been used exclusively as a novel lighting technology for use in luminaires and lamps. However, flexible organic technology can offer much more: as an active lighting surface, it can be combined with a wide variety of materials, not just to modify but to revolutionize the functionality and design of countless existing products. To exemplify this, the Fraunhofer FEP together with the company EMDE development of light GmbH will be presenting hybrid flexible OLEDs integrated into textile designs within the EU-funded project PI-SCALE for the first time at LOPEC (March 19-21, 2019 in Munich, Germany) as examples of some of the many possible applications.
The Fraunhofer FEP, a provider of research and development services in the field of organic electronics, has long been involved in the development of...
For the first time, an international team of scientists based in Regensburg, Germany, has recorded the orbitals of single molecules in different charge states in a novel type of microscopy. The research findings are published under the title “Mapping orbital changes upon electron transfer with tunneling microscopy on insulators” in the prestigious journal “Nature”.
The building blocks of matter surrounding us are atoms and molecules. The properties of that matter, however, are often not set by these building blocks...
Scientists at the University of Konstanz identify fierce competition between the human immune system and bacterial pathogens
Cell biologists from the University of Konstanz shed light on a recent evolutionary process in the human immune system and publish their findings in the...
Laser physicists have taken snapshots of carbon molecules C₆₀ showing how they transform in intense infrared light
When carbon molecules C₆₀ are exposed to an intense infrared light, they change their ball-like structure to a more elongated version. This has now been...
11.02.2019 | Event News
30.01.2019 | Event News
16.01.2019 | Event News
22.02.2019 | Physics and Astronomy
22.02.2019 | Materials Sciences
22.02.2019 | Life Sciences