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A Demographic Analysis of Male Life History and Social Structure of Mountain Gorillas

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Twenty-five years of demographic data on free-ranging mountain gorillas (Gorilla gorilla beringei) from the Karisoke Research Center, Rwanda were used to assess male life histories and the variation within the age-graded social structure. Group types include lone silver-backs, one-male, multimale, and all-male groups. Although 60% of gorilla groups in the Virunga population are one-male, a multimale structure may increase chances of survival and future reproductive success for males at three stages of their lives. Infants born in one-male groups appear more likely to die from infanticide than those in multimale groups. Immature males in one-male groups may face decreased future reproductive opportunities compared to males in multimale groups. Adult males in one-male groups lack possible partners for coalition formation during intergroup encounters. Demographic constraints, such as length of time to male maturation, coupled with intense male-male competition for mates may limit the number and duration of groups with a multimale structure. Individuals are not restricted to one group type for their entire adult lives and males that attain maturity in each group type may eventually reproduce. Variation in male reproductive success is based both on length of reproductive tenure and on the number of mates.

Affiliations: 1: (Department of Zoology, Birge Hall, 430 Lincoln Drive, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53706, USA

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