, Volume 35, Issue 1, pp 1-14

Seasonal change in the composition of the diet of eastern lowland gorillas

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Details are presented of the composition of the diet of eastern lowland gorillas, derived mainly from a study of their fresh trails and fecal analysis, during the course of an entire year in the tropical lowland forests of the Itebero region, Zaire. Gorillas ate 194 plant foods from 121 species and 45 families. They consumed 48 species of fruits; and 89% of fecal samples contained fruit seeds, but fruits were a relatively small part (25%) of the total number of food items. The composition of their diet changed seasonally. When consumption of fruit decreased in the long rainy and the long dry seasons, the gorillas ate, in addition to Zingiberaceae and Marantaceae, many kinds of leaf and bark, which may be an important buffer against the shortage of fruits. Gorillas also fed regularly on ants (Ponerinae), and the frequency of consumption showed small seasonal variations. From a comparison of diet composition, eastern lowland gorillas appeared to be intermediate between the other two subspecies. The choice of food showed differences in preference of fruits and insects between subspecies and may reflect high similarities within subspecies in lowland and montane forests.