Gorilla Society: Conflict, Compromise, and Cooperation between the Sexes

Gorilla Society: Conflict, Compromise, and Cooperation between the Sexes

Gorilla Society: Conflict, Compromise, and Cooperation between the Sexes

Gorilla Society: Conflict, Compromise, and Cooperation between the Sexes


Societies develop as a result of the interactions of individuals as they compete and cooperate with one another in the evolutionary struggle to survive and reproduce successfully. Gorilla society is arranged according to these different and sometimes conflicting evolutionary goals of the sexes. In seeking to understand why gorilla society exists as it does, Alexander H. Harcourt and Kelly J. Stewart bring together extensive data on wild gorillas, collected over decades by numerous researchers working in diverse habitats across Africa, to illustrate how the social system of gorillas has evolved and endured.

Gorilla Society introduces recent theories explaining primate societies, describes gorilla life history, ecology, and social systems, and explores both sexes' evolutionary strategies of survival and reproduction. With a focus on the future, Harcourt and Stewart conclude with suggestions for future research and conservation. An exemplary work of socioecology from two of the world's best known gorilla biologists, Gorilla Society will be a landmark study on a par with the work of George Schaller- a synthesis of existing research on these remarkable animals and the societies in which they live.



Socioecology is the study of how individuals’ evolved survival, mating, and rearing strategies interact with the physical and social environments to produce the sort of society that we see. Primates are useful subjects of study in socioecology because they are so relatively well known, and their societies are so varied. Primates are also interesting because in an unusually large proportion of species for a mammal, the sexes live together even outside any breeding season. Gorillas are an interesting primate because being the largest bodied, they are an extreme, and extremes are always a good means of testing generalities.

The Book’s Aim

Our main aim is to provide an easy introduction to modern thinking about socioecology in general, primate socioecology in particular, by presenting the equivalent of a worked example of how socioecologists attempt to explain the nature of an animal’s society. We also hope, of course, to provide a cohesive explanation of gorilla society for those perhaps more interested in gorillas than in primate socioecology. And if we make readers sufficiently more interested in gorillas to do a bit more than they do at present to help conserve these animals, or any other of the world’s threatened species, we will have achieved another aim.

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