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Gorilla Society: investigating cooperation, territoriality and social support in our evolutionary cousins

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Western gorillas are one of our closest evolutionary relatives. They have a similar social structure to our own, living in family groups with overlapping ranges and therefore represent an important model system for understanding human social evolution. Despite this, very little is known about the large-scale social structure of this species. I investigated community structure in two western lowland gorilla populations visiting forest clearings in Republic of Congo, demonstrating that these populations showed a multi-level kin-based social structure, previously thought to be unique to humans within apes. I then used camera trap monitoring of gorillas across their ranges to reconstruct movement patterns, using ecological modelling to test hypotheses relating to territoriality, competition and cooperation within gorilla society. I will discuss what these findings add to our knowledge of this species and how they alter our understanding of the evolution of human social complexity and the basis on which modern human society is built.

This talk is part of the Darwin College Sciences Group series.

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