Gorillas are currently classified with Homo sapiens in the family Hominidae. Humans and apes diverged during the Miocene era about six to ten million years ago. Three subspecies of gorillas are now recognized, the western lowland gorilla, the eastern lowland gorilla, and the mountain gorilla. They are distinguished from each other by length of body hair, variation in coat color, and the size of their jaws and teeth. The eastern lowland gorilla (G. g. graueri) inhabits a small area of forest from eastern Zaire to the west of Lake Tanganyika. Like the mountain gorilla, this subspecies has a black coat but with shorter hair. Because of its reduced numbers and limited range, this subspecies is listed as endangered by the World Conservation Union (IUCN).
The western lowland gorilla is not only the smallest and least endangered of the three subspecies, but it has the widest distribution. This subspecies lives in a variety of forest habitats in the Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Nigeria, and Zaire. Gorillas are primarily vegetarians, eating fruit, leaves, and plant parts. Male western lowland gorillas weigh around 300 pounds while the sexually dimorphic females weigh half as much. When standing, an adult male can reach a height of five feet six inches. Because of their size, gorillas are almost completely terrestrial. At night they sleep mostly on the ground, sometimes in trees, on cushioned nests they construct with branches and leaves.
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