The Story Of Wild Animals:
Story Of The Shrew
Story Of The Tenrec
Story Of The Rabbit
Story Of The Chamois
Story Of The Duckbill
Story Of The Peccary
Story Of The Linsang
Story Of The Aard-vark
Story Of The Gorilla
Story Of The Weasel
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Story Of The Gorilla
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
The gorilla, an enormous ape from Western Africa, is the largest member of the monkey family, but others have a much greater resemblance to man and have many human characteristics wanting in the gorilla. Of the man-like apes, the chimpanzee is the largest and most commonly known. Next comes the orang-outan, which frequently attains a height of over five feet. The gibbon is a small, active simian, and has the peculiarity of great cleanliness; the mother washing her offspring's face several times daily in spite of the struggles and screams of the young. Others are the marmoset, lemurs, the spider-monkeys.
A great deal of nonsense has been written about the impossibility of man being descended from the chimpanzee, a gorilla, or an orang. No one, however, who knows what he is talking about, can ever suppose for a single moment that such was the case. What zoologists do contend for is that, supposing some kind of evolution to be true explanation of the origin of animals, and all the available evidence indicates that it is so, man is so intimately connected, so far as his bodily structure is concerned, with the higher apes that, in this respect at least, he cannot but be considered to have had a similar origin. And on this view both man and the man-like apes are regarded as diverging branches descended from a common ancestor, "the missing link," long since extinct, and as much unlike any living ape, as such apes are unlike man himself.
That the higher apes are closely related in their bodily structure to man is obvious to all, and it is a fact that the differences between some of these apes and man-are of far less importance than those by which the lower monkeys are separated from the higher apes. It has, indeed, been attempted to show that apes and monkeys are sharply distinguished from man by the circumstance that while man is two-handed, apes and monkeys are four-handed. The difference between the foot of one of the larger apes and that of man is, however, merely one of degree, and is much less than that between the apes and the lowest representatives of the order.
Most of the monkey tribe are inhabitants of forest regions. Aided by their hand-like feet, all of them are expert climbers, and many, like the oriental gibbons and the South American spider-monkeys, but rarely leave the trees, leaping from bough to bough, and thus from tree to tree, far above the heads of the travelers below, to whom their presence is made known only by their continual howling or chattering. The climbing powers of the South American monkeys are largely aided by their prehensile tails, which serve the purpose of a fifth limb. Owing to the warmth of the regions in which most of them dwell, monkeys never hibernate. Contrary, however, to what is often supposed to be the case, several of the smaller species are expert swimmers, and will fearlessly cross comparatively large rivers.
When the human skeleton is contrasted with that of the ape the size of the ape's forearm is the most striking point of difference. Next comes the shape of the skull and the ring of bone surrounding the sockets of the eyes. The number of teeth differs in the various species. In the very young the resemblance to man is much greater than in the adult ape.
Dr: Robert Hartmann, of Berlin, who has devoted much attention to the man-like apes, observes that "in the gorilla, the chimpanzee, and the orang-outan, the outer form is subject to modifications, according to the age and sex. The difference between the sexes is most strongly marked in the gorilla, and these differences are least apparent in the gibbons. When a young male gorilla is compared with an aged animal of the same species we are almost tempted to believe that we have to do with two entirely different creatures. While the young male still shows a resemblance to the human structure, and develops in its bodily habits the same qualities which generally characterize the short-tailed apes of the Old World, with the exception of the baboon, the aged male is otherwise formed. In the latter case the points of resemblance to the human type are far fewer; the aged animal has become a gigantic ape, retaining indeed, in the structure of his hands and feet, the characteristics of his kind, while the protruding head is something between the muzzle of the baboon, the bear, and the boar. Simultaneously with these remarkable alterations of the outer structure there occurs a change of the skeleton. The skull of an aged male gorilla becomes more projecting at the muzzle, and the dog teeth have almost attained the length of those of lions and tigers. On the upper part of the skull, which is rounded in youth, great bony crests are developed on the crown of the head and on the forehead. The arches above the eye-sockets are covered with wrinkled skin, and the already savage and indeed revolting appearance of the gorilla is thereby increased."
Natural history is indebted to Paul Du Chaillu, the African traveler and explorer, for its first definite knowledge of the gorilla.
A full-grown male, if standing in a perfectly upright position, will generally measure rather more than six feet in height; and since his body is much more bulky, and his limbs are longer than those of a man, he is considerably the largest representative of his kind. As in the chimpanzee, there are distinct eyebrows on the. forehead and lashes to the lids of the eyes. The nose has a relatively long bridge, and its extremity is high, conical, and widely expanded. The upper lip is remarkable for its shortness; and the whole of the dark skin in the region of the nose, cheeks, and mouth is marked by a number of wrinkled folds. The massive jaws are extremely projecting, and with their huge tusks, or dog teeth, complete the repulsive aspect imparted to the expression by the overhanging eyebrows. The ears are comparatively small and appear to be fastened above and behind to the sides of the face. The head is joined to the trunk by a very short and thick neck, which gives the appearance of its being set into the shoulders; and the term "bull-necked" is therefore strictly applicable to the creature. This great thickness and power of the neck is largely due to the backward projection of the skull, and the tall spines surmounting the vertebra of the neck. The muscles of the shoulders and chest are equally powerful, as is essential for the movements of the mighty arms.
Although when driven to close quarters the gorilla is doubtless one of the most terrible of foes, yet it appears certain that very exaggerated accounts have been given of the natural ferocity. Herr von Koppenfels informs us that so "long as the gorilla is unmolested he does not attack men; and, indeed, rather avoids the encounter." And when these creatures catch sight of men, they generally rush off precipitately in the opposite direction through the underwood, giving vent at the same time to peculiar guttural cries. It appears that many gorillas are killed by the natives with the aid of a weighted spear suspended by a cunningly devised system of cords in the creature's path. Others are, however, undoubtedly shot by the negroes, although it would seem that, at least in many instances, such animals have been accidentally met by the hunters as they travelled through the forest rather than deliberately sought out and tracked.