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Gorilla Behavior

Gorillas are chiefly land animals. They walk quadrupedally (using both feet and hands), with the knuckles of the hands carrying the weight of the upper body. In lowland regions with many fruiting trees, gorillas tend to spend more time off the ground, climbing trees and sometimes brachiating (swinging by their arms).

Unlike the other great apes, gorillas travel, eat, play, and sleep in stable family groups. These groups may range from several individuals to more than 50, but a typical family consists of one or two adult males, three or four unrelated females, and their young.

Gorillas spend much of their day eating, consuming a primarily vegetarian diet of leaves, stems, shoots, and fruit. They travel between feedings, covering a distance of several hundred yards to a mile or more in a day. In lowland forests where gorillas eat a substantial amount of fruit, the slow passage of seeds through their digestive tracts serves an important ecological process: the widespread dispersal and propagation of trees.

At dusk a family settles wherever it has finished feeding. Each member constructs its own nest, either on the ground or in a tree, by bending nearby vegetation to form a flexible platform. The home range in which gorillas move, eat, and sleep varies from 5 to 30 sq km (2 to 12 sq mi).

Apart from humans, gorillas have few or no predators. In some regions leopards have been known to occasionally attack gorillas. If threatened, adult gorillas�especially males�defend others in the group by roaring, screaming, beating their chest with cupped hands, and eventually charging if the threat is serious. However, research and tourist programs in the wild indicate that gorillas demonstrate extreme tolerance of people as long as people approach them respectfully.

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