, Volume 58, Issue 3, pp 385–392 | Cite as

Dehydroepiandrosterone-sulfate (DHEA-S), sex, and age in zoo-housed western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla)

  • Ashley N. EdesEmail author
Original Article


Among humans, dehydroepiandrosterone-sulfate (DHEA-S) declines with age and is hypothesized to be involved in somatic maintenance and healthy aging. Men have significantly higher DHEA-S than women, contradicting longer lifespans in the latter. Declines of DHEA-S with age also are observed in chimpanzees. In both chimpanzees and bonobos, males and females show no differences in DHEA-S production. Based on human and chimpanzee data, gorillas were predicted to show declining DHEA-S with age. Similar to chimpanzees and bonobos, it also was predicted DHEA-S would not be significantly different between males and females. DHEA-S was assayed from serum banked during physical examinations of gorillas housed at three North American zoos (n = 63). Gorillas ranged from 6 to 52 years of age. Differences between males and females were examined using t tests. Linear regression was used to determine the relationship of DHEA-S with age. There was no significant difference in DHEA-S between males and females. Additionally, there was no significant relationship between DHEA-S and age. As predicted, there were no sex-based differences in DHEA-S in gorillas, which is similar to chimpanzees and bonobos but different from modern humans. Unlike chimpanzees and humans, there was no significant relationship between DHEA-S and age in gorillas. The absence of a relationship between age and DHEA-S may be due to the lack of gorillas under age 6 years in this sample as declines in chimpanzees occur prior to age 5 years, more rapid growth and development among gorillas compared with other African hominoids, or a unique pattern of DHEA-S production.


Great apes Captivity Aging HPA axis 



This research would not have been possible without the assistance of veterinarians and staff at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. I would like to express my gratitude to Douglas E. Crews, the associate editor, and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful suggestions and advice.


Funding for this research was provided by The Ohio State University Department of Anthropology and the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

I declare no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. All procedures performed in studies involving animals were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institution or practice at which the studies were conducted.


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Copyright information

© Japan Monkey Centre and Springer Japan 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyThe Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA

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