Gorilla Types: A Complete List of All Species

Leave a comment / / Updated on: 25th September 2023

Portrait of a female gorilla in a group of Eastern Lowland Gorillas
Portrait of a female gorilla in a group of Eastern Lowland Gorillas / guenterguni via Istock

A member of the family of great apes, gorillas are the largest living primates.

These creatures share a very similar DNA to humans and inhabit the rainforests of some parts of Africa.

The name “gorilla” is derived from a word that roughly translates to “a hairy person” in an ancient African dialect spoken along the continent’s west coast.

Gorillas prefer to spend their time on the ground like many other great apes do, although they will climb trees to collect fruit or to play with their troop members.

There are two primary gorilla species that further split into several subspecies, but there is a lot of argument surrounding how many subspecies there are altogether.

Silverback king gorilla
Silverback king gorilla | izanbar via Getty Images

There are four recognized species and subspecies altogether, most of which are classified as Critically Endangered by the IUCN.

We will look at the various species in this article and point out some distinctive characteristics.

Primarily, the two species of gorillas are the western and eastern gorillas.

The western gorillas split into the western lowland gorilla and the Cross River gorilla, while the eastern gorillas split into the eastern lowland gorilla and the mountain gorilla.

However, this article will treat each subspecies as individual species, pointing out different facts about each.

Gage Beasley's In-Demand Plush Toys
Gage Beasley’s In-Demand Plush Toys

4. Eastern Lowland Gorilla

Eastern Lowland Gorilla | slowmotiongli via Getty Images

Otherwise called Grauer’s gorilla or Gorilla beringei graueri, the eastern lowland gorilla is endemic to parts of the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

With less than 5000 individuals left, eastern lowland gorillas are classified as critically endangered species.

These animals are intelligent and social and enjoy spending their time in troops of between two and 30 individuals.

This troop is usually led by a huge adult male gorilla called a silverback gorilla.

Males weigh between 331 and 461 pounds and stand almost six feet to seven feet in height.

Females are typically smaller than males, and they barely reach 200 pounds and stand at a height of around 5.2 feet.

Except for their cheeks and hands, they are covered in thick, dark fur, just like other gorillas.

A female Eastern Lowland Gorilla with its juvenila gorilla
A female Eastern Lowland Gorilla with its juvenila gorilla / guenterguni via iStock

They walk on their knuckles most of the time and have big heads in relation to the rest of their bodies.

Their small muzzle, huge hands, and stocky build set them apart from other gorilla species.

Despite their size, eastern lowland gorillas subsist mainly on fruit and other herbaceous materials, just like other gorilla subspecies.

They primarily eat fruits but also include leaves and nuts in their diet. Insects like ants and termites are what these eastern lowland gorillas prefer.

They sometimes hunt for small rodents or lizards.

As mentioned, these gorillas enjoy inhabiting rainforests, but their range has reduced drastically over the years because of poaching and other human activities.

3. Mountain Gorilla

Mountain Gorilla
Mountain Gorilla | zampe238 via Getty Images

The Virunga volcanic mountains in Central/East Africa and the Virunga in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are home to the mountain gorilla, also known as Gorilla beringei beringei.

There are currently around a thousand of these gorillas left on Earth.

As their name implies, these gorillas live on mountains at elevations between 8,000 and 13,000 feet, primarily to avoid human activities down on the ground.

This species is smaller than eastern lowland gorillas.

Males reach a weight of 265 to 421 pounds, while females are smaller, weighing 154 to 216 pounds.

When standing on its two legs, the average mountain gorilla is about four to six feet tall.

Although elderly male mountain gorillas also have a silver or white streak running along the back, their hair is generally entirely black or brownish.

A parent and baby mountain gorilla in Rwanda's Virunga Mountains
A parent and baby mountain gorilla in Rwanda’s Virunga Mountains / Kay Durden via iStock

The hands, face, breasts, feet, and hands are all bald.

Mountain gorillas can also survive in colder climates thanks to their fur, which is longer and thicker than other gorilla species.

The varied vegetation that mountain gorillas eat includes roots, fruit, flowers, leaves, and tree bark.

While being primarily herbivorous, they have been observed eating insects when no other food sources are available.

The availability of different local plants and trees affects their diet’s precise composition.

Although they spend most of their time on the ground, they can climb trees as long as the trees can support their weight.

2. Western Lowland Gorilla

Western lowland gorilla
Western lowland gorilla | Ian Peter Morton via Getty Images

Also known as Gorilla gorilla gorilla, the western lowland gorilla is found in the tropical rainforests of Western Africa.

Poaching and habitat destruction affect the severely endangered western lowland gorilla species.

The immune systems of gorillas differ from those of humans, making them far more prone to disease and death from ailments that aren’t even deemed severe enough to kill us.

Despite being the smallest species of gorilla, the western lowland gorilla nonetheless exhibits extraordinary size and power.

Their entire body is covered with coarse black hair except for the face, ears, hands, and feet.

They differ from other gorillas in that they have bigger skulls and brown-gray hair with a hint of red or auburn on top of their heads.

A Western Lowland Silverback Gorilla strolling through a grassy meadow
A Western Lowland Silverback Gorilla strolling through a grassy meadow / Dono via iStock

The silverback name refers to the male western lowland gorillas’ thigh-length white patch of hair.

A male standing straight can reach up to 5ft 11in tall, with an average height of 5ft 6in, and weigh 600 pounds, with an average of 310 pounds.

On the other hand, females usually reach 4ft 11in and weigh up to 200 pounds.

Since they are predominantly herbivorous, the roots, fruits, tree bark, etc available in the dense forests of West Africa make up the bulk of the diet of western lowland gorilla groups.

The types of fruits these gorillas consume depend on the season – be it dry or wet season, and they may also eat insects from time to time.

1. Cross River Gorilla

Cross River Gorilla
Cross River Gorilla | Julielangford via Creative Commons (Original)

Also called Gorilla gorilla diehli, Cross River gorillas are the least known of all the gorilla species.

The Cross River gorillas are a unique breed and are thought to be the strangest gorillas in the world.

They are typically found along Nigeria’s and Cameroon’s mountainous borders in a place called the Cross River basin.

Due to the Cross River gorillas’ dispersion among at least 11 groups of 3,000 square mile lowland montane forests and rainforests of Cameroon and Nigeria, it is difficult for specialists to estimate how many are left in the wild.

The Cross River gorillas have light-colored hair and a small, slender frame.

The gorilla is not known to differ significantly from western lowland gorillas in body size or limb and bone length.

Like the hands and feet, the face typically has no fur.

Facial view of an adult Cross River Gorilla in Mefou Sanctuary
Facial view of an adult Cross River Gorilla in Mefou Sanctuary / Fkamtoh via Wikipedia CC BY-SA 4.0

They have cone-shaped heads with a crimson crest on top of their heads.

Like other gorillas, the dominant male group leaders frequently have a silver patch on their backs.

Males weigh an average of 310 to 440 pounds and are as tall as 5.9 feet. Females reach around 220 pounds in weight and a height of 4.7 feet.

The principal components of the diet of the Cross River gorillas include leaves, nuts, berries, and the woody vine liana.

Their main sources of nutrition during fruitless months are terrestrial herbs and tree bark and leaves.

Due to the seasonality of many of the Cross River gorillas’ food sources, their meals are largely composed of the very lush, nutrient-rich foliage that is typically found close to their nesting locations.


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