Wesetern gorillas live in social groups that consist of a dominant male (also called a silverback) several females and their young. These social groups usually include between 2 and 20 individuals. Young gorillas, both male and female, usually leave their natal groups to join other groups when they mature. Occasionally, some gorillas remain with their natal group as subordinate members.
Silverbacks are dominant adult male gorillas that lead a group of gorillas. Their name comes from the patch of silver hair that grows on their back when they reach maturity. Subordinate males within a group are called blackbacks.
The dominant silverback in a gorilla group commands much of the attention of group members. The silverback selects foraging sites and protects the group from intruders.
Western gorillas are among the largest of all primates although they are slightly smaller than their cousins the eastern gorillas. They have no tail, a short snout, large nostrils and a prominant brow ridge. They have small eyes and ears.
Size and Weight:
Females are sexually mature at about 10 years of age, males at 15 years of age. Females provide all of the direct care for the young such as feeding and social interaction. Males provide indirect care by protecting the group from outside threats. Such protection is significant to the survival of the young within the group. Rival males from outside a group often attempt to attack and kill infants within a group.