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Keywords:

  • G. g. gorilla;
  • population structure;
  • group composition;
  • all-male groups

Abstract

During a 17-month study at the Lokoué clearing in Odzala National Park, Republic of Congo, we identified 377 western lowland gorillas. This population included 31 solitary males, 37 breeding groups, and eight nonbreeding groups. Its age- and sex-class structure was similar to those observed at two other clearings in the same forest block. However, the size of breeding groups varied with site (either clearing or forest sites). At Lokoué, breeding groups (mean size: 8.2 gorillas; range: 3–15) included a single silverback male and, on average, 3.2 adult females. Nonbreeding groups (mean size: 5.5; range: 2–15) were devoid of adult females. Five of the nonbreeding groups were composed predominantly of blackbacks, subadult males, and juveniles, and thus fit the definition of all-male groups previously observed in mountain gorillas. Our study confirms that 1) one-male breeding groups are the norm in western gorillas, and 2) all-male groups occur in this species. Despite frequent changes in members due to migrations of the males, the persistence of these all-male groups indicates that they may play an important role in the life of migrating males. Variations in population structure, and group composition and type among gorilla populations are discussed. However, a further understanding of the evolution of group-living in gorillas requires detailed ecological studies conducted in parallel with studies of the population structure and dynamics of these groups. Am. J. Primatol. 63:111–123, 2004. © 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.