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How do Mountain Gorillas Move?, How Does Gorilla Locomotion Look Like

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How does a gorilla move?  Gorillas, the greatest of the apes, are primarily terrestrial (meaning they travel on the ground). While moving on the ground, gorilla typically moves on all fours or quadrupedally using their knuckles – this is called ‘knuckle walking’. Occasionally gorillas rear up to walk on their two hind legs for short distances which is bipedalism.

Below is a description on How do Mountain Gorillas Move?

  1. Knuckle-walking in Gorillas

  • Knuckle-walking is a style of walking found in some primates where they move quadrupedally or on all their four limbs (hands and feet).  Gorillas are also specifically knuckle-walkers. The mountain gorillas of the Virunga volcanoes, for example, knuckle walk for 94% of the time.
  • Knuckle walking actually means that the gorilla walks on the top of their knuckles as opposed to putting all their weight on their palms. They fold their fingers on the front two limbs (hands) inward and start to knuckle walk.
  • Recent research indicates that the type of walking was acquired from the divergence between gorilla and chimpanzee lineages.
  • The posture observed when gorillas move around includes extended elbows, stiff wrist areas, and posteriorly placed palms.
  • However, unlike chimpanzees, gorillas do not extend their wrists much when walking. The medial joints get slightly flexed as they swing their limbs.

Why Gorillas Walk Knuckle Walk?

  • While there has not been a clear explanation as to why gorillas walk on their knuckles, scientific research has indicated several possibilities that would have led to this unusual locomotion behavior.
  • Gorillas are the world’s largest living primates usually weighing over 200kg. So, one reason is that gorillas adopted the walking style as a means of reducing the impact their weight had on the soft tissues of their forelimbs.
  • Also, gorillas have their hips attached differently than humans so standing on two legs for a long period of time would eventually become painful. Humans would have to walk on all fours as well if they had the same type of hip placement.
  • Knuckle walking allows small objects to be carried in the fingers of gorillas while walking on all fours.
  • Gorillas also knuckle walk because of their long arms, short legs, and stiff backs. The arm span of a male gorilla can stretch between 7.5 feet and 8.5 feet.
  • Generally, bipedalism cannot favor gorillas because the structure of their bodies is made for quadrupedal walking. Their knuckle-walking is mainly for weight-bearing and stability. Their finger bones are wider and flatter to create a more stable base in their forearm. The skin between fingers is tough and highly padded to support the adequate movement.
  1. Gorilla Sometimes Walks Bipedally Too

  • Though gorillas almost exclusively walk quadrupedally, gorillas can occasionally stand erect/upright and walk/move on two legs, or bipedally for short periods of time.
  • This mainly happens during display or when they are going to chest beat. They can also walk bipedally when engaging in an encounter or carrying something (such as food or an infant).
  • Gorillas also stand erect and move when curious about something in the distance. However, gorillas rarely stand upright and walk because of having long arms, short legs, stiff backs.
  1. Climbing in gorillas

  • Though gorillas are primarily terrestrial (travel on the ground), they will occasionally climb trees. While climbing trees or any other object, gorillas grasp with all four limbs.
  • Gorilla feet and those of many other non-human primates are uniquely adapted for this, with a special big toe that functions similarly to a thumb. Their other toes are also longer and more dexterous than human toes.

 How long does it take for a baby gorilla to walk?

  • Like humans, gorillas are not very independent when they’re born.  At first, they lay on their mom’s stomach and she supports them with one arm, walking tripedally.
  • At around 3 months of age, they can grasp on and mom can go back to walking quadrupedally.  Eventually, infant gorillas grow strong enough to climb onto their mother’s back.
  • Infant gorillas usually start to independently walk and explore within a few feet of mom at around 8 months of age. As they get older and braver they will range further

How Fast Does a Gorilla Move? /Is a Gorilla Faster Than a Human?

Gorillas are very fast especially when they are in the forest.  Gorillas have ability to run at speeds of 20 mph to 25 mph. So when a gorillas charges at your during your Gorilla trekking encounter in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda or Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda, Virunga National Park & Kahuzi Biega National Park in Congo, Your advised not to run, but to look down and walk away steadily to create a distance between you and the gorilla.

This is because the gorilla will easily run faster after you and attack you in case you try to run away.

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