Posted in Blog Archive

Posted by abeodbart January 18, 2012 at 9:51 am

This will probably be the most amazing thing you’ll see for a while. But if you think we’re referring to an encounter with the Derrenite dynasty of Clan Brown, you’ll be sorely disappointed (or not, depends?). What you’ll see below, and we do urge you to watch, is footage of a troop of wild mountain gorillas in Uganda, marching through a tourist camp as if they own the place, sitting down for a snack next to a stunned tourist before moving on. These are our second closest living relatives after the chimpanzee, since our common ancestors with the gorillas diverged about 7 million years ago and about 5 million for chimps. We share 95-99% of the same DNA.

Now, we say wild, but these gorillas in Uganda are exposed to human tourists all year long. With only about 750 of the heavily endangered mountain gorillas left, tourism is the only way to pay for the rangers needed to protect the animals from encroaching urban interference and the witchdoctors or poachers that sell the gorilla body parts for use in “magical” potions. It was also common to eat the great apes, before conservationists were able to end this practice.

The gorillas in the video are called the Rushegura troop and consist of a harem of females (the moderate sized black apes), a ton of toddlers of various sizes and one giant male silverback (you will know him when you see him, trust us). As you’ll notice, the silverback is perhaps three-or four times the size of the females! “Why?”, a male visitor might ask in a trembling, thin voice so his 7ft tall 280lbs silverback wife won’t hear him from the couch. Well, as you suspect the males have to fight for domination of the harems. Hence evolution has favoured an ongoing arms-race between males that resulted in them growing steadily bigger. The rationale being that randomly born larger males won more fights, had more sex and hence their own male offspring also got the genes for being larger. Whilst females, not encumbered with this tiresome competitive boasting, could stay nice and small so they in theory could still catcha cab to a theatre in Britain to see Derren’s awesome Svengali show (hint, hint).

As a result, a silverback gorilla in his prime, as the specimen in the video certainly seems to be, is not only huge, but also has the estimated strength of around 10 to 20 strong human men! Don’t believe us? Look at the video and pay special attention to the mass of muscles on the silverback. These amazing animals have been observed casually snapping giant bamboo stalks, equivalent to the strength of two inch steel bars, like twigs. Imagine what it could do to your parents in law? Luckily (for your parents in law) these are rather meek non-violent creatures, and if you treat them with respect, no looking in the eyes, stay low, still and submissive, you’ll be absolutely fine as the video will show you.

What a wonderful and terrifying experience this must have been. To have those little gorillas crawl all over you, kissing your face (sublime!) whilst their dad, a massive silverback 50 times your strength (the guy is kinda feeble, OK?) is having a little rest right behind you, keeping a protective eye on his brood and you…

For a somewhat higher quality video visit the Whyevolutionistrue blog of biologist and author Jerry Coyne, who wrote an amazing book on evolution called “Why Evolution is True”.

January 18, 2012 at 11:27 am
Peter says:

Just an amazing video!

January 18, 2012 at 11:38 am

Hi Derren,

We saw a pair of Gorillas at Animal Kingdom, not exactly in the wild but still basically amazing.

Just look in their eyes is enough to relate to them. Evolution is brilliant :)


January 19, 2012 at 4:55 pm
Shaun Banks says:

WOW That was a really amazing video. Evolution is quite amazing – imagine having that muscle mass without having to do that much exorcise.

Evolution is brilliant but the forces and mechanisms that drive and create it are truely astounding as shown in the previous blog. Evolution has a plan so brilliant that it would be ridiculous to expect one of its by products (us) to be able to understand it. Unless we are the final product of evolution then maybe we might one day understand it otherwise we will all have to evolve a little more.

I love Gorillas they have got it all going on – nothing to do and all day to do it in.

January 21, 2012 at 9:51 am
Flapjack says:

I spotted the gorilla. Did I win anything?

January 22, 2012 at 4:41 am

Amazing! What an intense experience. What a gift capturing it on film. Thanks for sharing!

January 22, 2012 at 1:48 pm
alan says:

These are our second closest living relatives after the chimpanzee.
And there was me thinking that position was filled by politicians.
The rationale being that randomly born larger males won more fights, had more sex
yet would never encounter an albeit primitive and somewhat puny primate, packing an AK47? Damn those evolutionary dead-ends.
if you treat them with respect, no looking in the eyes, stay low, still and submissive, you’ll be absolutely fine
WARNING: Don’t try this technique when dealing with MPs. It could prove fatal for us all.
replace older cells in bodies.
A recent TV documentary showed youngsters practicing open-source genetic engineering in a community centre.
Recipe for longevity: Take one Gran, and the relevant non-ageing DNA command string from a certain jellyfish.

January 22, 2012 at 3:32 pm
tabata says:

Haha great video

January 29, 2012 at 9:44 am
Christine Marie says:

re: “”These are our second closest living relatives after the chimpanzee”…

What, no love for the Bonobos? We’re closer to the bonobos than the apes. Speaking of bonobos, I think this crowd will enjoy reading the evolution-minded “Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality” by
Christopher Ryan, Ph.D. & Cacilda Jethá, M.D. Highly recommended.


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