Orangutans, Gorillas, and Common Chimpanzees

Social organization of a group is a wide concept. It encompasses the myriad of interactions in a group ranging from the size of groups, communications within the group, mating systems, and the dominance systems of a group among other characteristics. Primates’ interactions are organized in such a way that every member is actively involved in the community. It explains the way of life of a group. This write up will explore the similarities and differences in the social organization of orangutans, gorillas and common chimpanzees.

According to Haviland (2009), the orangutans, gorillas, and common chimpanzees have certain similar characteristics; they all live and travel in groups. For instance, he notes that common chimpanzees travel in small frequently changing groups while large groups of chimpanzees, will be found around a food locale or an attractive female. On the other hand, gorillas live in groups ranging from 2 to 20. This minimum number of two, in case of gorillas, normally comprise of a male, commonly known as silverback, and a female. Their groups are also age graded.

He added that orangutans are to be found in groups especially depending on the availability of food. Their feeding aggregations are formed where resident males, females, and nonresident sub adults gather and feed in large fruiting trees. This is possible because there is less scrabble for food. This is when fission and fusion groups are formed and the animals associate in small groups. This is also the time that travel bands are formed to allow the coordination of individuals which makes it possible for them to travel between the areas with food. This is known as a consortship group and is seen to consist of adult breeding pair (Haviland, 2009).

Another characteristic which is inherent in the orangutan, gorilla and chimpanzees’ community is the male dominance over female. According to White (1989), among the orangutans, adult males are transient and wander broadly. As adults, he notes, they try to become residents and will usually travel widely and adopt a migratory lifestyle until they secure a home. This will be by dislocating another resident male. He observes that a resident male will usually have a home range comprised of several adult males under his control.

He postulates that the same is the case among the gorilla. That is, the male gorilla are also the dominant and that due to the dominance of a single male over the others, the other males may elect to move out to new areas to establish their dominance or decide to stay and become subordinate to the existing dominant male. In the latter arrangement, they will only have an opportunity to mate when the silverback dies. Equally, the dispersing males may attract other emigrating females and start new social groups in which they become dominant over females.

The same is the case among the chimpanzees where the male are also dominant over the females. However, he keenly observes, there is no much rivalry among the males as is the case with the guerillas, as they are seen to co-operate a lot in the hunting for meat. Their mating is characterized as promiscuous as a female can mate with multiple males during estrus. Nevertheless, he concludes that, just like is the case with the guerillas, there exists an overall dominant male.

Additionally, Havilland (2009) observes that in all the three species, infant’s care is of utmost importance to ensure continuity of the community. He notes that, among the chimpanzee and the orangutans, infant care is the responsibility of the entire community. This is however contrary to what happens among the gorillas, where much of the infant care lies with the mother; here, the male comes in only by way of socialization.

Irrespective of such similarities, Havilland (2009) has also noted that orangutans, gorillas, and the common chimpanzees have differences in their social organizations. For instance, he observes that among the orangutans the males do disperse. This is not the case among the chimpanzees and the gorillas. Male orangutans will normally disperse over a wide range and wander around until they secure a home. They then establish a territory where they become the resident male. On contrary, among the gorillas, females emigrate from their natal groups to avoid inbreeding. The remaining females under the dominance of the silverback will also disperse upon its death (Haviland, 2009).

Difference can also be seen in the formation and sustainability of social groups. According to Havilland (2009), while orangutans will form groups occasionally, they are largely semi solitary. In most cases, they will spend time alone and have no stable groups. They only come together and seem to be in a group when travelling or during feeding in times of food abundance with the only stable group being in time of breeding between a male and a female. However, this also lasts for a few months. The only identifiable form of lasting social group is between a mother and its offspring, lasting for about seven years (Havilland, 2009).

On contrary, he observes, gorillas and chimpanzees are seen to live in stable groups throughout their lifespan. White (1989) also observes that when females disperse among male chimpanzees, males continue to live as a group undertaking tasks jointly including hunting and territorial defense. This is also the case with the gorillas. According to Havilland (2009), the guerillas, even with female emigration, the males which elect to remain become subordinate to the dominant male and continue to exist as a group.

Difference also exists in the infancy care. While it is the responsibility of the entire community among the chimpanzees, among the orangutans and the gorillas, the mothers are solely responsible for parental care. Additionally, infanticide has been recorded among the gorillas where young adult males kill young ones before they reach adulthood. This is seen as a way of eliminating competition. However, infanticide has not been recorded among the chimpanzees and the orangutans (Havilland, 2009).

They also exhibit different communication styles. For instance, the orangutan males will normally make ‘loud calls’ extending to several kilometers. It is usually a sign to other males of its presence and way of notifying females of its whereabouts. Chimpanzees exhibit both visual and vocal communication styles. This includes facial expression, posture, and sounds. For example, a full closed grin is a response to a frightening stimulus. Gorilla normally exhibit vocal communication within group interaction. For example, ‘copulatory grunts’ and ‘whimpers’ during copulation ‘play chuckles’ during play and ‘mild cough grunts’ during mild threat displays (White, 1989).

In conclusion, the orangutans, gorillas and chimpanzees are seen to contrast more on their social organization more than they compare. However, their areas of similarities are important as they give an insight on how apes and other primates interact in the forests.

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