Could I make a world where gorillas replace elephants in their niche as herbivore? Are there any reasons that they could not?

  • $\begingroup$ Welcome to WorldBuilding! This is a bit short for a question around here. Have a look at the tour and the help center to learn more about the site. What did your research suggest would happen when replacing elephants with gorillas? Did your research reveal any problems that would show that gorillas are different from elephants and can therefore not really replace elephants? Please flesh out your idea to make this answerable. $\endgroup$
    – Secespitus
    Commented May 13, 2017 at 16:39
  • $\begingroup$ Please define mega-herbivore. Also, don't the two species live in different habitats? Aren't they both already the top herbivores in their area? $\endgroup$
    – Aify
    Commented May 13, 2017 at 17:00
  • $\begingroup$ yes, you can. No, there no reasons why they can't. $\endgroup$
    – MolbOrg
    Commented May 13, 2017 at 18:41

2 Answers 2


Imagine the Gorillas as Giant Sloths

enter image description here

First off, sloths were giant ground based herbivores, like elephants. Megatherium, pictured here in lo-fi, had a body length around 6 m, and estimated weight of up to 4 tons, comparable with the Indian elephant.

We can then note that the gorilla's body plan is roughly similar to the sloth's. The gorilla does not have a tail, and has a different shaped head, but it is very similar regarding locomotion. Sloths walked plantigrade on the their back legs, just as gorillas, and they walked on their front claws, as gorillas knuckle walk.

Gorillas are already well adapted to eating large quantities of low grade vegetation, which is an important precursor to large size among herbivores. Their relatively dexterous limbs could be used competitively with an elephant's trunk or a giraffe's neck and tongue for reaching food in high places.

Overall, the gorilla is pretty easy to imagine as a mega-herbivore, following the plan of the giant sloth.

  • $\begingroup$ That sound like good idea. Thank you. $\endgroup$ Commented May 13, 2017 at 17:08

You want a gigantopithecus. These were real hominids in the orangutan line. I find estimates of 10-12 feet tall and 1200 lbs. Their teeth were flat, like elephants and other big herbivores. They ate a lot of bamboo.

I wonder if they had the same trouble as pandas - a low calorie vegetarian diet without the specially adapted gut of longstanding herbivores like ruminants.

One way to get around that is to be big and so be able to take in huge amounts of food. A problem with being big is that fertility is low and individuals have one baby at a time, spaced far apart. The proverbial all eggs in one basket: if you lose the baby you lose a big piece of your lifetime fitness which is one problem pandas have. Good insurance against that is sociality and care of young by more than one individual. Like humans do. And elephants. Not orangutans so much but gigantopithecus definitely should.

http://img01.deviantart.net/fda4/i/2008/267/8/e/gigantopithecus_by_hodarinundu.jpgenter image description here

https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CjIpqUOUkAIvBlG.jpg enter image description here

  • $\begingroup$ That is one big Librarian! $\endgroup$
    – ivanivan
    Commented May 14, 2017 at 1:42

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