I don’t know if somebody along the way failed latin, but the Western Lowland Gorilla’s scientific name really is Gorilla gorilla gorilla. The western gorilla is classified as Gorilla gorilla, and the lowland variety got tagged with the third gorilla, while the Cross River Gorilla is officially dubbed Gorilla gorilla diehli. (at which point two gorillas have to run around the circle back to the original spot)
The word gorilla itself came into use to describe these apes over 2000 years ago. It is adapted from an African term meaning “hairy man”.
The Eastern gorillas are classified with the proper name Gorilla beringei, and the Mountain Gorilla, famous for their role in “Gorillas in the Mist”, are named Gorilla beringei beringei after their discovery by German officer Robert von Beringe in 1902.
Before Dian Fossey’s research and her book (and movie) the gorilla had a bad reputation as being rather violent, stereotype with long fangs and their signature chest-pounding. In truth, as we saw in the movie, they are rather calm and gentle. While they certainly have the strength to pop you open like a Pez dispenser, the chest-beating is really a bluff by the big males allowing the rest of the troop to escape further up the mountain.
Bonus fact: Not all scientific names are so blatantly obvious. Here’s a couple selections that could make for a “Zoologists Gone Wild” series; Two kinds of horse fly, the Tabanus rhizonshine and Tabanus nippontucki. Or how about a spider classified as Apopyllus now.
- Source: http://www.seaworld.org/animal-info/info-books/gorilla/scientific-classification.htm (yes, apparently SeaWorld is an authority on gorillas)