Why Do Male Gorillas Bang On Their Chest?

King Kong might have made the move famous, but it turns out that gorillas have banged their chest for decades. Perhaps you’ve found yourself asking, why do male gorillas bag on their chest? You’re not alone – and thankfully, there’s an answer.

Not quite like King Kong

Banging on his chest was something that went hand in hand with King Kong. However, it turns out the real thing is a little different. In the movies, Kong uses close fists, but the reality? Male gorillas actually use cupped hands when they bang on their chest to amplify the noise – and probably so they don’t hurt themselves in the process. So why do male gorillas bang on their chest? It’s something that’s puzzled researchers for years.

The first thoughts

For many years, people have been amazed by male gorillas banging on their chest as they stand high and show off their impressive strength. After all, the animals can often weigh in at 500 pounds and aren’t a beast to be messed with if you want to stay safe. It was always believed that male gorillas pulled off the move because they were being aggressive. Now, it seems that might be the opposite of the reason after all.

Creating a study

Edward Wright is one of the many who wanted to learn why do male gorillas bang on their chest and quickly started an investigation to look for an answer. He and a team of people spent 3,000 hours watching gorillas in Rwanda, where they counted 25 different male gorillas creating over 500 chest bangs from 2014 to 2016. Edward and the team also used recording equipment to record the sound and footage of each male gorilla banging on their chest.

Analyzing the results

It turns out that each male gorilla creates a different sound when he hits his chest, with the larger gorillas making a lower frequency sound than the younger and smaller members of the group. It’s thought a lot of this is because the larger members have bigger air sacs near their larynx. This helped to show Edward and the team that banging on their chest was more than just a visual display – it was an audio one, too.

Preventing actual fights

So what does it all mean? From the research, it looks as though male gorillas banging on their chest might not be so aggressive after all. In fact, it seems they do this to try and give a challenger time to think about what they are doing before they get into a fight. The team learned that being so large means that even winning a gorilla fight isn’t risk-free. There’s a good chance getting physical could result in plenty of damage, so squaring up to one another could be a way to prevent anything from going too far.

They might look pretty adorable, but gorillas aren’t to be messed with, especially when the male gorillas bang on their chest. While it might not be as aggressive as it first seemed, it’s probably still a good idea to keep a distance.