Variation in the social organization of gorillas: Life history and socioecological perspectives.

Research paper by Martha M MM Robbins, Andrew M AM Robbins

Indexed on: 17 Oct '18Published on: 17 Oct '18Published in: Evolutionary Anthropology: Issues, News, and Reviews


A focus of socioecological research is to understand how ecological, social, and life history factors influence the variability of social organization within and between species. The genus Gorilla exhibits variability in social organization with western gorilla groups being almost exclusively one-male, yet approximately 40% of mountain gorilla groups are multimale. We review five ultimate causes for the variability in social organization within and among gorilla populations: human disturbance, ecological constraints on group size, risk of infanticide, life history patterns, and population density. We find the most evidence for the ecological constraints and life history hypotheses, but an over-riding explanation remains elusive. The variability may hinge on variation in female dispersal patterns, as females seek a group of optimal size and with a good protector male. Our review illustrates the challenges of understanding why the social organization of closely related species may deviate from predictions based on socioecological and life history theory. © 2018 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.