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Mountain Gorilla Vs Lowland Gorilla – Who Will Win?

mm byArthur Lewis July 30, 2023 15 min read

Mountain gorillas and lowland gorillas are two distinct subspecies of gorillas, found in different regions of Africa. Mountain gorillas inhabit the volcanic slopes of the Virunga mountains, while lowland gorillas live in the dense forests of central and west Africa.

The two subspecies differ in various physical and behavioral characteristics, including size, coat color, social structure, and diet. Understanding these differences is crucial for conservation efforts and to promote the well-being of these magnificent animals.

We will delve into the specifics of mountain gorillas and lowland gorillas, highlighting their unique traits and shedding light on their individual conservation challenges.

By understanding these subspecies more deeply, we can better appreciate the incredible diversity within the gorilla family.

Mountain Gorilla Vs Lowland Gorilla
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An Overview Of Mountain Gorillas

Mountain gorillas are a unique and fascinating species that captivate the imagination of wildlife enthusiasts around the world. With their majestic presence and distinct characteristics, they are truly a sight to behold.

In this section, we will take a closer look at mountain gorillas, focusing on their habitat and distribution, physical characteristics and appearance, and unique behaviors and social structure.

Habitat And Distribution

  • Mountain gorillas are found in two distinct locations: The Virunga mountains, which span across the borders of Rwanda, Uganda, and the democratic republic of Congo, and the Bwindi impenetrable national park in Uganda.
  • They inhabit elevations ranging from 8,000 to 13,000 feet, making them one of the few primates that thrive in high-altitude environments.
  • The dense bamboo and afro-alpine forests provide the perfect home for these gentle giants, offering them abundant food sources and protection from predators.

Physical Characteristics And Appearance

  • Mountain gorillas are the largest species of primates, with adult males, known as silverbacks, weighing between 300 to 400 pounds and standing at a height of up to 5 ½ feet when on all fours.
  • They possess a muscular build and a thick, shaggy coat that helps them endure the colder temperatures of their mountainous habitats.
  • One striking feature of mountain gorillas is their prominent brow ridges and sagittal crest, giving their heads a distinctive shape.
  • Additionally, their broad chests, long arms, and opposable thumbs enable them to navigate their surroundings with ease.

Unique Behaviors And Social Structure

  • Mountain gorillas are highly social creatures, living in groups known as troops or harems, led by a dominant silverback. These troops typically consist of multiple females, their offspring, and a few subordinate males.
  • Silverbacks play a crucial role in the troop’s dynamics, making important decisions, protecting the group from threats, and mediating conflicts within the group.
  • Gorillas are primarily herbivores, with a diet consisting of leaves, shoots, stems, and fruits. They have been observed spending a significant portion of their day foraging for food.
  • Unlike their lowland counterparts, mountain gorillas exhibit unique behaviors such as constructing nests every evening to sleep in and showing a complex vocal repertoire used for communication and social bonding.

An Overview Of Lowland Gorillas

Lowland gorillas are remarkable creatures that inhabit the dense forests of central Africa. They are one of two subspecies of gorilla, with the other being the mountain gorilla.

Habitat And Distribution

  • Lowland gorillas primarily reside in the tropical rainforests of central Africa, including countries such as Cameroon, congo, equatorial guinea, and Gabon.
  • These gorillas are adaptable and can be found in a variety of ecosystems within the rainforest, including lowland swamps, primary and secondary forests, as well as montane and submontane forests.
  • Their preference for lowland environments gives them their name, distinguishing them from their mountain-dwelling counterparts.

Physical Characteristics And Appearance

  • Lowland gorillas are physically robust with males weighing up to 400 pounds and standing as tall as 6 feet. Females are slightly smaller, weighing around 200 pounds.
  • They have a muscular build, characterized by broad chests and long arms that extend beyond their knees.
  • Their coat is dark and thick, providing protection against the elements of their forest habitat. Unlike mountain gorillas, lowland gorillas have shorter hair, which can aid in dissipating heat in warmer lowland regions.

Unique Behaviors And Social Structure

  • Lowland gorillas are highly social animals, living in groups called troops that can consist of 5 to 30 individuals.
  • Troops are led by a dominant silverback male, who is easily recognizable by the silvery-white hair on his back. He ensures the safety and well-being of the troop.
  • Lowland gorillas are herbivores, primarily consuming leaves, stems, fruits, and other plant material. Their diet is supplemented with occasional insects, such as ants and termites.
  • These gorillas are known for their gentle and non-aggressive nature, often displaying peaceful interactions within the troop.
  • Communication plays a crucial role in their social structure. Lowland gorillas communicate through a variety of vocalizations, body postures, and facial expressions, enabling them to convey their emotions and establish social bonds.

Comparison of Mountain Gorilla Vs Lowland Gorilla

The world of gorillas is fascinating, with each species having its unique characteristics. In this section, we will compare two popular gorilla species and delve into their distinct differences.

Let’s dive into the comparison of mountain gorilla vs lowland gorilla.

Diet And Feeding Habits

Both mountain gorillas and lowland gorillas are primarily herbivores, but their diets differ slightly. Here are the key points to note:

Mountain gorillas:

  • Their diet mainly consists of vegetation such as leaves, shoots, stems, and fruits.
  • Mountain gorillas spend a significant amount of time foraging for food in their native habitat, which is characterized by lush forests with an abundant supply of plants.
  • They consume an average of 30 kilograms of vegetation daily, ensuring they maintain their massive size.

Lowland gorillas:

  • Lowland gorillas have a diverse diet that includes fruits, leaves, stems, and pith from various plants.
  • Their habitats offer a wider range of vegetation compared to mountain gorillas, allowing them to incorporate more fruits into their diet.
  • Similar to their mountain relatives, lowland gorillas spend a substantial part of their day feeding to meet their nutritional needs.

Size And Weight

When it comes to their physical attributes, mountain gorillas and lowland gorillas display nuanced differences in terms of size and weight. Take a look:

Mountain gorillas:

  • Males can grow up to an impressive height of around 5.6 feet when standing on two feet.
  • On average, adult males can weigh between 300 to 430 pounds, showcasing their robust and muscular build.
  • Females, although smaller, still exhibit a formidable size, reaching heights of approximately 4.6 feet and weighing around 200 to 280 pounds.

Lowland gorillas:

  • Male lowland gorillas are slightly taller compared to their mountain counterparts, reaching heights of up to 5.9 feet.
  • The average weight of adult males ranges from 330 to 440 pounds, highlighting their significant mass.
  • Female lowland gorillas usually stand around 4.9 feet tall and weigh between 150 to 260 pounds.

Fur And Coloration

Another factor that distinguishes these two gorilla species lies in their fur and coloration. Here are the key points to note:

Mountain gorillas:

  • They have thick, long black fur that helps them cope with the cool temperatures in their mountainous habitats.
  • In certain lighting conditions, their fur can appear to have a brownish tint, giving them a unique appearance.
  • Adult males develop a distinguishable silver-colored patch of fur on their back, which is why they are sometimes referred to as “silverbacks.”

Lowland gorillas:

  • Lowland gorillas have shorter black fur compared to mountain gorillas.
  • Their habitat, which includes dense rainforests, requires fur that is less insulated than that of their mountain counterparts.
  • The short fur allows them to better adapt to the hot and humid conditions prevalent in lowland areas.

Diet And Feeding Habits

Mountain Gorilla’s Diet And Preferred Food Sources

Mountain gorillas primarily have a herbivorous diet, mainly consuming plant matter. Here are the key points about the diet and preferred food sources of mountain gorillas:

  • Vegetarian diet: Mountain gorillas are primarily folivorous, meaning they mainly eat leaves, stems, and shoots. They consume around 40 pounds of vegetation every day.
  • Bamboo and plants: One of the staple foods for mountain gorillas is bamboo, which makes up a significant portion of their diet. They also feed on other types of plants, including wild celery, nettles, and thistles.
  • Limited fruit consumption: Unlike their lowland counterparts, mountain gorillas have a limited diet of fruits, as the availability of fruits in their habitat is relatively low compared to lowland areas.
  • Seasonal variations: Depending on the availability of certain plant species, the diet of mountain gorillas may vary throughout the year. They adjust their feeding habits based on the seasonal changes in their environment.

Lowland Gorilla’s Diet And Preferred Food Sources

Lowland gorillas, on the other hand, have a broader diet and consume a wider range of food sources compared to their mountain-dwelling relatives. Here are the key points about the diet and preferred food sources of lowland gorillas:

  • Herbivorous omnivores: Lowland gorillas have a more varied diet compared to mountain gorillas. While their primary food sources are plant-based, they also include a small proportion of insects and other small animals in their diet.
  • Fruits and leaves: Fruits make up a significant part of the lowland gorilla’s diet. They consume a variety of fruits, including figs, berries, and other seasonal fruits. Leaves of different plants also form a substantial portion of their diet.
  • Nutritional diversity: The availability of a wider range of food sources in the lowland gorilla’s habitat allows them to have a more nutritionally diverse diet compared to the mountain gorillas.
  • Grazing behavior: Lowland gorillas exhibit a behavior known as “grazing,” where they feed on grasses and other low-lying vegetation. This behavior is not commonly observed in mountain gorillas.

Size And Weight

The Average Size And Weight Of Male Mountain Gorillas

Mountain gorillas are the largest species of primates, and their males are especially impressive in terms of size and weight. Here are some key points about the average size and weight of male mountain gorillas:

  • Male mountain gorillas are much larger than their female counterparts. On average, they can weigh between 300 and 430 pounds (136 to 195 kilograms).
  • Standing tall on their hind legs, these majestic creatures reach an average height of 5.6 to 5.9 feet (1.7 to 1.8 meters).
  • Their massive chests and broad shoulders are a testament to their strength and dominance within their social groups.
  • These primates have longer and thicker hair than other gorilla species, which gives them a more robust appearance.

The Average Size And Weight Of Male Lowland Gorillas

Lowland gorillas, while not as massive as mountain gorillas are still impressive in their own right. Here are the key points about the average size and weight of male lowland gorillas:

  • Male lowland gorillas are slightly smaller than their mountain gorilla counterparts. On average, they weigh between 300 and 400 pounds (136 to 181 kilograms).
  • Standing on their hind legs, they reach an average height of about 5.4 to 5.6 feet (1.6 to 1.7 meters).
  • Their body structure, which includes long arms and a rounded head, differs slightly from that of mountain gorillas.
  • Like mountain gorillas, lowland gorillas also have a dense coat of hair, although not as long and thick.

Fur And Coloration

Mountain Gorilla’s Fur Characteristics:

  • The fur of mountain gorillas tends to be long and thick, providing insulation in their natural habitat amidst the high altitudes of the Virunga mountains.
  • These gorillas possess two layers of fur, with a longer, coarse outer layer that protects them from rain and colder temperatures, and a softer underlayer for added insulation.
  • The color of the fur varies from black to dark brown, enabling them to blend seamlessly with their surroundings and ensuring effective camouflage.
  • The black fur allows them to absorb sunlight, providing natural warmth while traversing through the cooler mountain regions.
  • The thick fur acts as a protective shield against sharp vegetation, preventing any potential injuries while they maneuver through dense forests.

Lowland Gorilla’s Fur Characteristics:

  • Lowland gorillas, residing in the lush rainforests of central and west Africa, have comparatively shorter fur as it is not required for insulation purposes.
  • The fur is generally dark black in color, with male gorillas often exhibiting a silver saddle-like patch on their back, a distinguishing feature of maturity and dominance.
  • The shorter fur aids in thermoregulation as it allows better air circulation and prevents overheating in warm and humid lowland regions.
  • Their fur enables them to adapt to a more arboreal lifestyle, as they navigate through the dense vegetation of the rainforest with ease.
  • The coloration of their fur allows them to blend in with the shadows and foliage, offering them a strategic advantage against potential predators.

Differences In Behavior And Social Structure

Communication Methods

Mountain gorillas use a variety of communication methods to interact with each other and express their needs. These methods include:

  • Vocalizations: Mountain gorillas utilize a range of vocalizations such as grunts, roars, and hoots to convey messages among group members.
  • Body language: They rely heavily on body language to communicate, employing gestures like chest-beating, arm-raising, and head-nodding to express dominance, submission, or playfulness.
  • Facial expressions: Expressive facial expressions, including staring, baring teeth, or widening eyes, play a crucial role in transmitting emotions and intentions.

Dominance Hierarchy And Group Dynamics

Both mountain gorillas and lowland gorillas exhibit a complex social structure with dominant individuals and specific group dynamics.

Here are some key points to understand their hierarchy and dynamics:

  • Dominance hierarchy.
  • Group composition.
  • Social interactions.
  • Territory defense.

In contrast, lowland gorillas have a slightly different social structure and group dynamics:

  • Dominant males.
  • Larger groups.
  • More females per male.
  • Group fission-fusion.

Threats And Conservation Efforts

Human Activities And Threats Faced By Both Gorilla Species

Both mountain gorillas and lowland gorillas face several common threats due to human activities, which significantly impact their populations. These threats include:

  • Habitat loss: Deforestation and the encroachment of human settlements lead to the destruction of gorilla habitats. The clearing of land for agriculture, logging, and urbanization has a detrimental impact on the gorilla population.
  • Poaching: Gorillas are highly sought after for their body parts, mainly for illegal wildlife trade. Poaching poses a severe threat to both mountain and lowland gorillas, as their populations suffer due to the demand for gorilla products.
  • Diseases: Gorillas are susceptible to various diseases, especially those transmitted by humans. As a result, the presence of humans near gorilla habitats increases the risk of disease transmission, leading to potential outbreaks and a decline in population numbers.

Conservation Initiatives And Efforts To Protect Mountain And Lowland Gorillas

Efforts to protect gorillas have been a priority for conservation organizations, governments, and local communities. Numerous initiatives have been implemented to ensure the long-term survival of both mountain and lowland gorillas. Some key conservation efforts include:

  • Protected areas.
  • Ecotourism.
  • Community engagement.
  • Research and monitoring.
  • International cooperation.

Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

What Is The Difference Between Mountain Gorilla And Lowland Gorilla?

Mountain gorilla and lowland gorilla are two subspecies of gorillas. The main difference lies in their habitat, altitude, and physical characteristics. Mountain gorillas are found in high-altitude forests, whereas lowland gorillas inhabit lowland and swamp forests. Mountain gorillas have a noticeably larger size and longer hair, while lowland gorillas have shorter hair and a slightly smaller size.

What Do Mountain Gorillas Eat?

Mountain gorillas are herbivores, primarily feeding on plants, leaves, stems, and fruits. Their diet consists mainly of vegetation, such as bamboo shoots, wild celery, thistles, and various fruits. They are known to consume a large amount of vegetation in order to meet their daily nutritional requirements.

Are Mountain Gorillas Aggressive Towards Humans?

Mountain gorillas are generally not aggressive toward humans. They are peaceful and shy animals that prefer to live in their natural habitat undisturbed. However, they are wild animals and can display defensive behaviors if they feel threatened or if their young are in danger.


The comparison between mountain gorillas and lowland gorillas has provided us with a deeper understanding of their unique characteristics and habitats. Both species are remarkable in their own ways, but they differ in terms of physical attributes, behavior, and environment.

Mountain gorillas are found in higher elevations, while lowland gorillas prefer lower-altitude forests. Mountain gorillas have longer fur and are adapted to colder climates, whereas lowland gorillas have shorter fur to cope with warmer temperatures. Their social structures also differ, with mountain gorillas living in cohesive family groups and lowland gorillas forming larger communities.

Furthermore, conservation efforts have been integral in protecting these endangered species, with initiatives such as eco-tourism supporting their preservation. As we continue to study and protect these incredible animals, it is crucial to raise awareness and ensure their survival for generations to come.

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Arthur Lewis

"Hello, I'm Arthur Lewis, your guide to the untamed wilderness. Living in the heart of nature, I've found my calling in the captivating world of animals. Every day, I immerse myself in their lives, observing, learning, and documenting their stories. My writings are not just articles, but a window into the wild, offering you a firsthand experience of the beauty and complexity of our natural world. So, come along with me on this journey, as we explore the hidden tales of the wild, one creature at a time.

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