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Silverback Gorilla

Silverback Gorilla

A silverback mountain gorilla is an adult male identifiable by the swathe of silver hair on its back. As well as this impressive signifier of maturity, they are famed for displays of aggression and dominance including whooping, charging, chest beating, tree slapping, and less commonly, physical duels.

A typical silverback weighs 430 pounds (195 kg) and stands 5 feet (1.5m) tall. Silverbacks are incredibly strong and can lift over 1763 pounds (800kg) of dead weight. That’s roughly twice as much as a well trained weightlifter. In the wild, a silverback uses its immense strength to fell trees in order to reach their fruits. This makes mountain gorillas a keystone species in Virunga, since they significantly affect the ecology of their environment.

The Dominant Silverback

A dominant silverback is responsible for directing troop activities such as nesting, feeding and migration between seasonal feeding areas. While vying to retain and recruit females during clashes with other troops, a dominant silverback will defend members of his troop to the death.

Despite a dominant silverback retaining mating rights over all females within his troop, higher ranking silverbacks in multi-male groups are often able to mate with a small proportion of females.

The Silverback – Female Relationship

Mature females regularly migrate between families to improve reproductive chances and avoid inbreeding. No matter the family a female belongs to, she will strive to have close contact and a strong bond with the dominant silverback. This helps prevent harassment from other males and reduces the threat of hostility from non-related females encountered through migration.

Blackbacks and Subordinate Silverbacks

The ultimate goal of all silverbacks is to maximize chances of reproductive success by becoming dominant. A blackback is mature sexually but not physically strong enough to challenge for dominance. Once a male develops into a silverback he may then form a coalition with the dominant silverback or challenge for control of the troop.

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