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Gorillas make an impressive splash

作者:逄辗    发布时间:2019-03-06 09:01:00    

By Andy Coghlan In the lowland forests of western Africa, male gorillas reach the top by out-splashing their rivals. The finding is one of the first examples of land-based animals communicating using water, says Richard Parnell of the Wildlife Conservation Society of New York. “It’s a highly visual display, created by a gorilla either running or leaping into standing water,” Parnell says. For three years, he catalogued the water-splashing antics of gorillas in the Congolese Nouabale-Ndoki National Park. The lowland gorillas (not to be confused with the better-known mountain gorillas) regularly visit large swampy forest clearings called bais. The bais are full of aquatic herbs, which the gorillas eat. But the visits are social as well. Often, as many as five groups come to the bai simultaneously. While they eat, they eye each other up from 20 metres or more and the males signal by splashing. Because the splashing displays can be seen from a distance, they are clearly designed to intimidate males and impress females in adjacent groups, Parnell says. “Large plumes of spray result from all styles of the display,” he says. “The big ‘silverback’ males did almost 70 per cent of the displays.” But Parnell found that solitary males splashed the most. These males “displayed almost as often to other solitary males as to groups,” says Parnell. “Therefore, it’s more to do with intimidating other males.” Of the 130 named individuals he observed at one large clearing called the Mbeli Bai, the most macho by far was a male he christened “Mad Max”. “He was spectacularly successful at picking up females,” says Parnell. “But he was a serious bruiser”. Within two years, Max had built up the most numerous group of the 14 which regularly visited the bai. Parnell says that chimpanzees have been seen intimidating other males with splashes made by throwing rocks in water. But this is the only other example he could find of land-based mammals communicating via water. Journal reference: Nature (vol 412,

 

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