…By Enitan Thompson for TDPel Media.
New research suggests that gorillas, including humans, may break the mold when it comes to the long-term effects of early life adversity.
Unlike many other species, previous studies conducted by the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund found that young gorillas exhibit resilience when losing their mothers.
However, researchers highlight that losing a mother is just one example of potential adversity that young animals can face.
The study challenges the assumption that early life adversity universally leads to negative outcomes in adulthood and raises questions about the impact of such events on humans.
The findings of this study shed light on the unique resilience observed in gorillas when it comes to early life adversity.
The researchers discovered that gorillas who survived beyond the age of six showed minimal effects from the difficulties they experienced during infancy or as juveniles.
In contrast, humans face challenges in attributing adult health issues or premature death to specific adverse events experienced during early life due to various behavioral, environmental, and cultural factors.
Therefore, studying early adverse events in non-human species, such as gorillas, could provide valuable insights into understanding their impact on humans and finding ways to mitigate their effects.
The researchers suggest that the ability of gorillas to overcome early life adversities can have significant implications for humans.
Understanding the underlying reasons behind this resilience may provide valuable lessons for addressing and mitigating the impact of early life adversity in human populations.
The study analyzed data spanning 55 years, focusing on a group of wild mountain gorillas in Rwanda’s Volcanoes National Park.
The long-term monitoring conducted by the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund provided a wealth of information on these animals.
The study identified six different types of early life adversity experienced by the gorillas, including parental loss, group member death due to infanticide, social group instability, limited age-mates in the social group, and the presence of a competing sibling born shortly after them.
The researchers examined the impact of experiencing none, one, two, or three or more adverse events.
The results revealed that gorillas who experienced multiple adversities before the age of six had a higher likelihood of dying as juveniles.
However, if they survived past age six despite early adversity, their lifespans were not shortened, regardless of the number of adverse events they faced.
Surprisingly, gorillas who experienced three or more forms of adversity actually lived longer, with a 70% reduction in the risk of death in adulthood.
This longevity trend was particularly observed in males, potentially due to viability selection.
It suggests that gorillas who were strong enough to survive challenging early life events may possess higher quality traits that contribute to longer lifespans.
The study’s findings challenge the notion that the long-term negative effects of early life adversity are universal across species, emphasizing the need for nuanced understanding.
Assistant Professor Rosenbaum, one of the study’s authors, suggests that assumptions about compromised adulthood following early adversity should not be made without considering the complexity and individuality of each case.
The researchers propose that the tight-knit social structures within gorilla groups may contribute to their resilience.
Even when a young gorilla loses its mother, other group members step in to fill the gap, preventing isolation.
This study adds to the growing body of research exploring the impact of early life adversity and resilience in various species.
By studying non-human species like gorillas, scientists gain valuable insights that can inform our understanding of human development and strategies to mitigate the effects of early adversity.
Gorillas serve as a fascinating example of how some species can overcome early challenges and thrive in adulthood, challenging traditional assumptions about the long-term consequences of early