, Volume 40, Issue 1, pp 87-104

Socioecological factors influencing population structure of gorillas and chimpanzees

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Differences in distribution and density between gorillas and chimpanzees are reconsidered with special reference to population structure. Both ecological and social factors influencing population structure are compared between species and between habitats within species. Gorillas and chimpanzees respond differently to a decline in food quality, such as fruit scarcity: gorillas change diet and decrease range, while chimpanzees do not change diet but may expand range. These responses result in different effects on their grouping patterns. For gorillas the dispersed distribution and reduction of range size decreases the rate of inter-unit encounters and female transfer. The concentration of social units increases the rate of aggressive contact between units and stimulates female transfer. Social units of gorillas may crowd or disperse in order to attain the optimal density. This tendency may result in similar densities of gorillas across habitats. By contrast, the distribution patterns or range size may not affect inter-unit relationships of chimpanzees. Within a single unit-group, various reproductive strategies are adopted by both sexes. Independent travel of females and flexible grouping patterns enable them to survive at very low density in extraordinary large ranges. Density and inter-unit relationships are good criteria for a healthy population of gorillas, while the size of unit-group and inter-individual relationships are good criteria for chimpanzees. Conservation planners should consider these differences for sympatric and allopatric survival in these species.