The Silverback Gorilla's Diet

By Grahame Turner
Adult male mountain gorillas, called
gorilla,silverback,primate,ape,chimpanzee,mammal,a image by Earl Robbins from Fotolia.com

The silverback gorilla is an adult male of the mountain gorilla species. Silverback gorillas are extremely powerful, large primates, which can reach nearly 400 pounds--compared to their female counterparts at a mere 200 pounds. Mountain gorillas live mostly in the jungles around African mountain ranges. To sustain a body that size, silverbacks need to eat a lot of food every day, and make sure they get all the right nutrients into their systems.

Primary Diet

gorilla image by Karsten Fischbach from Fotolia.com

The bulk of the mountain gorilla diet is vegetation. They eat a lot of shoots, leaves and plant matter. There are actually about 142 varieties of plants that are represented in the silverback's diet, including bamboo, celery, nettles, thistles and succulent herbs. When they can get them, they also love to eat any wild berries they can find. To sustain their weight, they need to eat about 60 pounds of food every day.

Occasional Foods

Occasionally, the silverback will also eat grubs or bugs. If the gorillas happen to find a wild ant nest, they will break into it and eat the ants inside. Silverbacks have also been known to eat rotting wood and small animals from time to time. Their primary diet consists of much easier-to-find vegetation, but the silverback gorilla, like humans, are an omnivorous species: they can eat meat or plants as they choose.

Water

In the jungle, water is not extremely easy to find in pools or streams. Fortunately, gorillas are not actually affected by this because of their diet. Bamboo shoots, the succulent herbs, and many fruits contain a lot of water. Bamboo, especially, is about 84 percent water. In the 60 pounds of vegetation they consume daily, there is enough water to sustain the gorilla, especially during the rainy season.

Feeding Habits

Each day, to reach the approximately 60 pounds of food, the gorillas will have three main feeding periods. Between these periods, they generally spend the remaining part of the day resting. They will also rest longer when it's raining heavily, putting off their next meal until the weather calms down. Silverback gorillas are extensive travelers, moving great distances to find the food needed to sustain them and the entire family group.

Family Life

gorillas at play image by Michael Shake from Fotolia.com

The silverback gorillas are the dominant adult males of the group, usually developing the gray saddle that earns them their name at around 12 years old. A group will generally have only one or two silverbacks, several blackbacks (younger males), and a number of females and children. The dominant silverback is the leader. He's in charge of finding the group food, and is also the one who mates with most of the females and fathers most of the offspring in the group.

About the Author

Grahame Turner has worked as a freelance writer since 2009 and a freelance reporter since 2010 for Wellesley Patch and Jamaica Plain Patch in Massachusetts. He also works part-time as a bookseller at the Northeastern University bookstore. He is a Northeastern University graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in English.