Scratching the surface: A content analysis of gorillas as zoogeomorphic agents
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Gorillas are among the most charismatic and well-researched species on the planet, yet their role as zoogeomorphic agents has gone largely overlooked. Zoogeomorphology is the study of animals as geomorphic agents, that is, their role in sculpting, modifying, and maintaining the earth’s physical surface. Documented gorilla zoogeomorphic activity is scattered within the literature of various disciplines and functions mostly as supplementary data to primary research goals. Knowledge on the geomorphic responses of gorillas is necessary to refine our understanding of their role as present and future agents of landscape formation and decay. Without zoogeomorphic data, vital pieces of information could be excluded in future conservation planning. This study is a content analysis of non-human primate literature that utilizes a conventional approach to identify, categorize, and define cases of gorilla zoogeomorphic activity. Nine categories of how gorillas function as zoogeomorphic agents have been identified. They include: (1) soil scratching and (2) soil scraping of the forest floor; (3) excavated chambers and depressions; (4) bare/semi-bare soil nest sites; (5) hand/knuckle and foot prints; (6) excavated insect mounds; (7) geomorphic implications of tool use (8) trunk uprooting, and (9) trampling. Data sets derived from the literature were used to provide a qualitative and quantitative summary of zoogeomorphic activity. Descriptive statistics were used to quantify literature reports and key zoogeomorphology studies were used to extrapolate potential trace specific geomorphic response(s).