Gorilla Physical Characteristics

Gorillas are the largest primates in the world, and they have parts of their body that are very similar to those of humans. In addition to their size, they are endowed with many striking and exciting features.

External anatomy of gorillas.

The most evident characteristic is their large and powerful body, unlikely to be ignored. The height and weight vary depending on the species, but in every case males are larger than females, and “silverback” males have the larger size among all the individuals in their group.

Usually, adult males are 1.7-1.8 meters high, but Silverbacks typically exceed 1.8 meters. Members of the subspecies Western lowland gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) reach 1.7 meters high while females are only 1.5 meters. Males weigh about 169.5 kilograms and females 71.5 kg approximately. Eastern lowland gorillas (Gorilla beringei grauieri) weigh a little more than the Western subspecies, and males can reach more than 200 kg.

Anatomy of gorillas.

Skull of male gorilla. / Author: Didier-Descouens.

Adult females weigh around 68-113 kilograms and males, 135-180 kg, an average of all subspecies. Moreover, the length between the tip of one arm and the other is between 2.3 and 2.6 meters. This size is much larger than its height!

Their body shape is robust. The belly area is bigger than the chest, and an elongated head up is due to a prominent sagittal crest. Above their eyes, there is a noticeable brow ridge, and they have small ears on both sides of their head. Around the nose, there are a few wrinkles unique to each gorilla, a fact used by scientists to quickly identify them in the wild.

External anatomy of male gorillas.

Their arms are longer than the legs. When walking, they do it on their knuckles, resting their weight on the arms. Thumbs and toes are opposable therefore they can easily manipulate objects. Like humans, they have unique fingerprints and nails instead of claws.

Both skin and fur have dark color, sometimes black, brown or dark gray. The pelage of lowland gorillas is shorter than the other species, but all subspecies lack hair around the nose, lips, chest, ears, feet fingers and palms of hands. As mountain gorillas inhabit the coldest areas, they have thicker and longer fur than the other subspecies.

Male gorillas grow in their backs silvery hair patterns, which works as an optical illusion because make them look longer than they are. Additionally, all gorillas have no tails.

Gorilla anatomy.

Gorilla foot.

Internal anatomy of gorillas.

Their skeleton is adapted to hold the weight of their body. Their spine is straighter compared with that of humans, and the muscles of their arms, shoulders, neck and back allow them to have a strength up to 6 times higher.

The sagittal crest is large enough to hold the strong jaw muscles used by gorillas when chewing tough, fibrous vegetation. The skull is large compared to the size of their body, and they have a big and highly developed brain. The large belly is the result of a long digestive tract, essential to digest their fibrous food they consume.

Like humans, they have 32 teeth in their jaws. A single bone forms the lower jaw, which has specialized teeth for cutting, grinding, milling, and so on. In the case of adult males, protruding sharp canines of considerable length are developed.

Adult males have underarm glands that expel off a pungent odor when they feel stress or excitement.



Andrea B. Taylor, Michele L. Goldsmith. Gorilla Biology: A Multidisciplinary Perspective. Cambridge University Press, 2002.






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