The Tree of Life shows us the evolutionary relationships between all living things. Species that are closely related sit closer together on the Tree and will typically share many ancestral characteristics.
For example, humans belong to a sub-group of mammals called primates, that first appeared 60 million years ago. Within the primate sub-group, we are part of the Superfamily Hominidae which includes orangutans, chimpanzees, gorillas and humans. In fact, Gorillas are among our closest living relatives, sharing almost 99% of our DNA.
Gorillas are the largest of all primates and live in dense forests in western and central tropical Africa.
The gorilla on display is sitting with its left arm and leg bent and looking to down to the right. Its right hand is resting on the outstretched right leg. Apart from the face, hands and feet which are black and smooth skinned, the gorilla is covered with thick, soft, dark brown hair with ginger touches on the chest and upper arms. The head is large and cone shaped on the top. The eyes are small and the nose and jaw project forwards below the eyes.
There are two gorilla species; the Western and Eastern and two sub-species within each. Their bodies are adapted for climbing trees and also for four-legged movement on the ground.
These special adaptations include arms and shoulders that allow them to swing from trees, and strongly-built finger and toe bones used for gripping branches and 'knuckle-walking' along the ground. The Western Gorilla is classified as Critically Endangered and is threatened by illegal hunting and habitat loss from mining and deforestation.