The shocking, real reason why gorillas pound their chests
The image of King Kong beating his chest might seem like the ultimate threat display. However, German scientists have discovered that gorillas thump their sternums to avoid — rather than instigate — a fight.
Specifically, pec-pounding advertises the primate’s size, fighting prowess and other practical info, providing rivals a picture of what they’d be up against if they chose to throw down, National Geographic reported.
“We found it is definitely a real, reliable signal — males are conveying their true size,” Edward Wright, a researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, told the Guardian. He co-authored the percussive study published Thursday in “Scientific Reports.”
Many have speculated that gorillas communicate size through moob-banging, but “there had been no data to support this claim,” according to Roberta Salmi, director of the University of Georgia’s Primate Behavioral Ecology Lab.
To prove their titillating theory, Wright and his team spent 3,000 hours studying endangered mountain gorillas in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park, National Geographic reported.
They used audio equipment to record chest-beat sound frequencies, number and duration of each display in six animals between November 2015 and July 2016. They then compared these variables to the size of the specimens, which were gauged by analyzing photos of the beasts.
The researchers found that bigger gorillas produced lower frequencies than their smaller counterparts, signifying that pectoral percussion was an “honest signal of competitive ability” and size, rather than an exaggerated threat display, per the study. Think a UFC fighter listing their stats vs. a drunkard puffing up their chest at the bar.
As larger body size correlated to higher social rank — and therefore fighting ability — scientists deduced that conveying it through chest-beating could help gorillas avoid violence — a must in a species that grows up to 500 pounds.