How alike are humans and gorillas?

As we all have learned in school, humans are also part of the animal kingdom, more precisely of the order Primates, which also includes monkeys and apes, such as gorillas. While it may be inacceptable for some to share the same biological origins as gorillas, the fact is that there are definitely some similarities between us and them. Just by looking at gorillas it is clear that they somewhat resemble humans, and there are traits in their behavior that may resemble human behavior. Of course humans are far superior to even the most developed species of the animal kingdom, thanks to the long and complex process of evolution we went through, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t any absolutely startling similarities between humans and gorillas.

Because of those similarities, scientists have always been particularly interested in gorillas, studying them and their way of life. In addition to physiological similarities, they have found that the social and even to a certain extent psychological structure of these animals has many things in common with the way humans live. For example, their senses, especially their hearing, sight and smell, function in a very similar way to that of humans. Gorillas possess a wide range of emotions and often express them in a way a human would. When a gorilla suffers a loss, the sadness or frustration can be clearly read on its face and in its eyes. The same goes for joy, fear and other emotions.

Gorillas live in communities that resemble human families. They take care of the members of their families, especially children, nurture them and protect them from outsiders and intruders. They also have similar lifespans to those of humans and they even go through same phases of childhood, maturity and senility around the same age as humans do, exhibiting the same or similar signs of those phases. Scientists who observed gorillas for extended periods have found that they have something of a language, although a gestural one, and that some of the gestures resemble the ones we use. The interpretation of gestures is also similar – for example, a direct stare to the eyes is interpreted as threatening (we usually interpret it as rude, which is not far from threatening), while the lowered head with the eyes to the ground express submission, just like in humans.

In addition, humans and gorillas are genetically close. While the science has been aware of this for very long time now, a recent study has found that the genetic kinship between gorillas and humans might be even closer. We always thought that our closest relatives were chimpanzees but the study performed on over 11,000 genes in human, chimpanzee and gorilla for evolutionary significant changes has found that 15% of the human genome is closer to the gorilla than to the chimp, while 15% of the chimpanzee genome is closer to gorilla than to human. Also, we know that 96% of the human DNA is the same as in gorillas. Some traits are particularly similar, such as the evolution of hearing, which in humans and gorillas underwent the same and parallel changes over the course of the evolution. Humans and gorillas also share genes responsible for advanced brain development.

What did we learn about gorillas from Dian Fossey?

Dian Fossey was one of the world’s most famous zoologists, almost a household name many have heard of even outside of scientific circles. Her life, work and accomplishments were presented in the famous movie “Gorillas in the Mist,” which changed the way most people look at gorillas and raised [...] Continue Reading…

What’s the difference between a gorilla and a chimp?

Pretty much everyone can tell that a gorilla and a chimpanzee are two different animals, and yet sometimes people mistake them for one another. This may be because in the world of animals gorillas and chimps are the closest to humans, the most similar ones. Humans and primates share [...] Continue Reading…