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.
The studyconducted over a 12-year period in Nouabal-Ndoki National Park in the Republic of Congohelps 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 repro
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Wildlife Conservation Society