Early brain growth cessation in wild virunga mountain gorillas (Gorilla beringei beringei)

Shannon C. Mcfarlin, Sarah K. Barks, Matthew W. Tocheri, Jason S. Massey, Amandine B. Eriksen, Katie A. Fawcett, Tara S. Stoinski, Patrick R. Hof, Timothy G. Bromage, Antoine Mudakikwa, Michael R. Cranfield, Chet C. Sherwood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Understanding the life history correlates of ontogenetic differences in hominoid brain growth requires information from multiple species. At present, however, data on how brain size changes over the course of development are only available from chimpanzees and modern humans. In this study, we examined brain growth in wild Virunga mountain gorillas using data derived from necropsy reports (N = 34) and endocranial volume (EV) measurements (N = 86). The youngest individual in our sample was a 10-day-old neonatal male with a brain mass of 208 g, representing 42% of the adult male average. Our results demonstrate that Virunga mountain gorillas reach maximum adult-like brain mass by 3-4 years of age; adult-sized EV is reached by the time the first permanent molars emerge. This is in contrast to the pattern observed in chimpanzees, which despite their smaller absolute brain size, reportedly attain adult brain mass approximately 1 year later than Virunga mountain gorillas. Our findings demonstrate that brain growth is completed early in Virunga mountain gorillas compared to other great apes studied thus far, in a manner that appears to be linked with other life history characteristics of this population. Am. J. Primatol. 75:450-463, 2013.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)450-463
Number of pages14
JournalAmerican Journal of Primatology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2013


  • Brain growth
  • Life history
  • Mountain gorillas

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Animal Science and Zoology


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