The objectives of this 27 month study were to document the positional behaviors used by lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) in the Central African Republic and to compare the effects of body size dimorphism on the use of arboreal substrates. During this study, despite their great size, all gorillas used trees regularly. Predictions concerning the relationship of body size to arboreal behavior were generally upheld. Small branch and suspensory activities were rare for silverbacks. Females used smaller and multiple substrates and suspensory postures more frequently than males. Although females foraged in the periphery of trees, males stayed close to the cores and rarely used terminal branches.
In addition to body size, this study found that party size, social rank, and tree structure all influence an animal's substrate choice and subsequent positional activities. Lone males typically remained in the cores of trees where substrates are large. Group males may have been forced to use all parts of trees because others were present. Lone males used small crown trees which provided easy access to terminal branch foods. Males and females foraging together used larger trees (containing more feeding sites) than single sex groups. Female positional behavior may have been affected by the presence of males. When apart from males, females used the cores of trees and larger substrates more than when foraging with males. As habitat and social context both influence substrate use, they should be considered essential components of body-sized based interpretations of the behavior of fossil or extant species. © 1995 Wiley-Liss, Inc.