How do gorillas get protein?

How do gorillas get protein?


Gorillas, the largest primates on Earth, are herbivores that primarily feed on plants. However, they still need protein to support their growth, development, and overall health. In this article, we will explore how gorillas obtain the necessary protein in their diet.

Plant-Based Protein Sources

Gorillas are predominantly folivorous, meaning they consume a diet rich in leaves. While leaves are not typically high in protein, gorillas have adapted to extract as much protein as possible from the plants they eat. They consume a variety of leaves from different plant species, which allows them to obtain a more diverse range of nutrients, including protein.

Leaf Selection and Digestion

Gorillas are selective in their leaf consumption, often choosing young leaves over mature ones. Young leaves tend to be more nutritious and contain higher protein content. By carefully selecting their food, gorillas maximize their protein intake. Additionally, gorillas have a specialized digestive system that helps break down the tough plant material and extract nutrients efficiently. Their large intestines and complex gut flora aid in the digestion of fibrous plant matter, enabling them to access the protein present in leaves.

Other Plant Sources

While leaves are the primary source of protein for gorillas, they also consume other plant parts that provide additional protein. These include stems, shoots, fruits, and flowers. Fruits, in particular, are an important part of their diet when available, as they are not only rich in protein but also provide essential vitamins and minerals.

Insects and Invertebrates

Although gorillas are primarily herbivores, they occasionally consume insects and other invertebrates. Insects can be a valuable source of protein, especially during times when plant-based protein sources are scarce. Gorillas may eat ants, termites, and other small invertebrates when the opportunity arises. However, it’s important to note that these make up a small portion of their overall diet.


Gorillas obtain protein primarily from their plant-based diet, with leaves being the main source. Their selective feeding habits and specialized digestive system allow them to extract as much protein as possible from the plants they consume. Additionally, gorillas may consume other plant parts and occasionally supplement their diet with insects and invertebrates. Overall, their ability to adapt to a herbivorous lifestyle and efficiently extract nutrients from plants ensures they meet their protein requirements.


– National Geographic:
– Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute:
– World Wildlife Fund: