Monday, June 15, 2009

Baby Birth Announcement: It's a Gorilla!

(Credit: San Francisco Zoo)

A baby gorilla who was born 6 months ago at the San Francisco Zoo has started making some appearances now that he's old enough.

He is way too cute. I don't think there's anything in the world cuter than a baby gorilla, that's my bias. Maybe my own little baby 'gorilla' will be cuter, but I doubt it. Is that mean? What can I say, I am biased I admit it: I love baby gorillas.

As with most zoo birth stories, this little bugger was rejected by his birth mama but another female stepped in to care for him. She carries him on her back in the customary "jockey style" position. The babies ride face-forward sometimes, other times facing the reverse direction. Whatever feels good and works. Having hair makes it easy to hang on to mom, giving her the ability to move around more or less unencumbered, unlike human moms who must use at least one arm to support a baby she carries.

Even though human ancestors lost their hair a long time ago, for whatever reason — it's still a mystery even though there are some interesting theories — human babies have retained the moro reflex.

Babies up to around age 4-5 months, in response to being startled by a loud noise or falling sensation, will extend their legs and arms with hands open then bring them back to their body with their fists clenched.

It's an obvious safety mechanism left over from the days when that sort of automatic response would have helped the baby grab mom's hair in an emergency - having to quickly flee a spot, nearly falling out of a night nest up in the trees, etc. I don't know for sure since no one really makes a big deal of studying such obvious things, but I'd bet all primates have this reflex as newborns.

The absence of it in humans, or presence of it but only involving one side of the body, is a sure indicator of neurological problems.

There are lots of other cool reflexes babies have only during their first few months of life. I'm looking forward to seeing them.

And, yes, I am a little envious of the whole gorilla-baby-can-hang-on-to-mom-but-human-baby-can't thing. It means I'll have to find a sling to wear if I want to have both hands free. Ideally, I'd have one I could use to nurse hand's free. Gorillas don't have to wear diapers either...
I'm just saying. Not really looking forward to that end of things. But, I have smelled gorillas, and as much as I love them, holy man alive - they freaking reek!

Let's just say they have a distinctive odor. But they are still the cutest little beings on the planet. Little Hasani, whose name means 'Handsome,' even has a baby registry at the zoo in case you want to send him stuff.

You've got to see the video of him with his surrogate mama for the first time. You can see her playing the airplane game with him - putting him up in the air with her feet and hands while she lies on her back. Chimps do this with their babies too. It aids motor development. There's a lot of continuity among species in early primate development.

Mama Gorilla Plays Airplane Game With Baby Gorilla


Ms Avery said...

Ooh, so cute!

And that's really interesting about the grabbing reflex -- what are some of the other reflexes?

Sycamore Moon Studios said...

That would be a hoot for your birth announcement. Inside it could say, "just kidding"!

Thanks for the info. Very interesting.

Field Notes said...

Hah! SMS - That would be an absolute riot. We'll have to see how much hair she has at birth. I may be having a little 'gorilla,' we'll see!

Field Notes said...

I'll have to do a reflexes post when she's born Ms Avery! There are some neat ones. The rooting one is another I am fond of. It's also very primal/primate. Mammalian, really. When something brushes a baby's cheek or mouth, baby turns toward it, assuming it's a nipple.

DJ said...

I have to admit, your post title had me going for just a minute!
Agreed baby gorillas are off the cute meter.

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