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Western Lowland Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla) Fact Sheet: Taxonomy & History

Taxonomic History & Nomenclature

Two species and four subspecies of gorilla recognized, as of 2016 (Maisels et al. 2016; Plumptre et al. 2016)

  • Gorilla gorilla (western gorilla)
    • Subspecies
      • G. g. gorilla (western lowland gorilla)
      • G. g. diehli (cross river gorilla)
      • Diverged approx. 18,000 years ago
  • Gorilla beringei (eastern gorilla)
    • Historically a subspecies of Gorilla gorilla
    • Considered a separate species since 2001
    • Subspecies
      • G. b. graueri (Grauer's Gorilla)
      • G. b. beringei (Mountain Gorilla)
  • Both Critically Endangered

Evolutionary History


  • Closest relative: Pan (Chimpanzee) 
  • Humans, chimpanzees and gorillas share a common ancestor not shared by orangutans (Groves 2000).
  • Molecular studies by Ruvolo (1994) indicate substantial distance between eastern and western species. Diverged 2 million years ago.


Describer :  Savage & Wyman (1847). Boston Journal of Natural History, 5:417

Kingdom: Animal

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Primates

Family: Hominidae

Subfamily: Homininae

Genus: Gorilla

Species: Gorilla gorilla (Western gorilla)

Subspecies: Gorilla gorilla gorilla (Western lowland gorilla)

Page Citations

Clifford, (2004)
Garner & Ryder, (1996)
Groves, (2001)
Groves, (2006)
Ruvolo, (1994)
Sarmiento, (2000)
Wilson & Reeder, (2005)

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