Many animals, including humans, burp when eating food as there is an increased intake of air.
Gorillas have a gag reflex and anatomy like humans that allow them to burp or cough to avoid choking.
However, burping sounds in gorillas do not necessarily mean that they are eating too fast or choking.
Gorillas can burp when they are happy. Burping is a common disyllabic (two syllables), rumbling sound that gorillas produce. They create this when eating desired foods and do not want to be disturbed, to inform the troop that food is available, during play, or as a sign of contentment.
This article provides information about burping and other ways that gorillas express themselves in physical and vocal ways.
The Gorilla And Human Connection
Gorillas belong to the Hominidae family, which also includes humans, chimpanzees, bonobos, and orangutans.
Gorillas are the second closest genetically, after chimpanzees, to humans with only a minor genetic difference in the nuclear DNA of 1.6%.
Unlike humans, gorillas have longer arms, and sharper teeth, and do not walk upright.
However, very much like humans, gorillas can express themselves in a variety of ways which include showing disgust, burping, smiling, anxiety, grief, and more.
Gorillas have musculature and anatomy like humans that allow them to exhibit both intentional and unintentional facial and body actions and emotions, as well as vocalizations, in response to stimuli.
Burping happens when excess air is swallowed when eating, drinking, vocalizing, chewing, drinking, and so on. Gorillas have a gag reflex and anatomy that allows them to avoid choking, coughing, or burping in response.
However, burping does not seem to be a cause of overeating or inhaling air, but more so as a way to communicate.
Burping is one of the most common vocalizations of gorillas. Often the dominant male will initiate burping and the rest will follow.
The belching sounds like a deep and prolonged rumble, or throat-clearing sound, often disyllabic (2 syllables).
Those that work closely with gorillas, such as sanctuary workers or zookeepers, have noticed that gorillas also universally burp within their troops (family groups).
This humming style of burping was noticed during times of playing, eating, or relaxing.
Interestingly, increased sounds were produced when acquired foods were obtained, leading researchers to believe that gorillas were eating favorites, such as aquatic vegetation or seeds.
Burping sounds may communicate that a gorilla is:
- Busy eating (do not disturb)
- To tell others that desired food is available
These observations led to the conclusion that when gorillas are content, they burp to express themselves.
This video shows a gorilla belching:
Facial expressions and the body language of gorillas as compared to humans can mean different things.
The following physical and emotional responses are taken into consideration along with body language.
A smiling gorilla does not necessarily mean that it is happy.
Smiling is a way to bare teeth signaling appeasement, affiliation, sexual arousal, submission, annoyance, or a greeting.
If a human smiles at a gorilla, the animal could interpret the meaning differently than the intention.
In addition to burping, gorillas may express contentment by humming different tones or exhibiting playful, dance-like movements. They may jump, roll, run, or climb playfully.
A gorilla may emit a chuckle or laughter during times of play, but without showing teeth.
Stressful behaviors demonstrate that the gorilla is not content or happy. The gorilla may be experiencing an underlying feeling of grief, fear, or anxiety.
A stressed gorilla can be observed performing repetitive, withdrawn, increased scratching, or disinterested behaviors.
These behaviors could be the result of illness or some other aggravating situation within the troop or habitat.
Dian Fossey, an American primatologist that studied mountain gorillas, classified different types of gorilla vocalizations.
These vocalizations allowed gorillas to communicate a range of emotions in response to a stimulus or in conjunction with a behavior.
These vocalizations include:
- Aggressive calls (roar, growl, barks)
- Fear or alarm (no vocalization/silence, screams)
- Distress (crying, whining)
- Troop communication (burps, grunts, hoots)
- High-pitched cries or screams (heard from infants)
- Other (chuckles, panting during copulation, whinnies)
Gorillas have a variety of ways to express themselves, often using belch-like rumbling sounds.
These sounds are used to express content or communicate with the troop in regards to eating or food sources. Burping can be heard during play or relaxation as well.
Gorillas also express themselves by showing their teeth like a smile because they are happy, aroused, submissive, or as a greeting. They also laugh without showing teeth.
Gorillas create a range of vocalizations to communicate aggressiveness, fear, alarm, distress, troop communication, and more.