Gorilla Society Conflict, Compromise, and Cooperation Between the Sexes
by Alexander H. Harcourt and Kelly J. Stewart
University of Chicago Press, 2007
Cloth: 978-0-226-31602-4 | Paper: 978-0-226-31603-1 | Electronic: 978-0-226-31604-8


Societies develop as a result of the interactions of individuals as they compete and cooperate with one another in the evolutionary struggle to survive and reproduce successfully. Gorilla society is arranged according to these different and sometimes conflicting evolutionary goals of the sexes. In seeking to understand why gorilla society exists as it does, Alexander H. Harcourt and Kelly J. Stewart bring together extensive data on wild gorillas, collected over decades by numerous researchers working in diverse habitats across Africa, to illustrate how the social system of gorillas has evolved and endured.

Gorilla Society introduces recent theories explaining primate societies, describes gorilla life history, ecology, and social systems, and explores both sexes’ evolutionary strategies of survival and reproduction. With a focus on the future, Harcourt and Stewart conclude with suggestions for future research and conservation. An exemplary work of socioecology from two of the world’s best known gorilla biologists, Gorilla Society will be a landmark study on a par with the work of George Schaller—a synthesis of existing research on these remarkable animals and the societies in which they live.


Alexander H. Harcourt is professor of anthropology at the University of California, Davis. Kelly J. Stewart is research associate in the Department of Anthropology at the University of California, Davis.


Gorilla Society is a lucid, fascinating, compelling, and comprehensive synthesis of decades of ecological and behavioral research not only of gorillas but also of apes and monkeys in general. The analysis of the complex evolutionary forces that shape a society is superb. It will provide insight and direction to all future primate field studies.”—George B. Schaller, Wildlife Conservation Society

— George Schaller

"A robust contribution to the study of how evolution of survival, mating, and rearing strategies interacts with physical and social environments."
— Choice

"A first-rate source for anyone wanting a broad overview of what topics are currently being explored by biologists in this field. The book is well worth the price, and I strongly recommend it to academics and anyone else who is genuiniely interested in learning more about these magnificent animals and what we can do to conserve them for future generations."
— F. Blake Morton, Integrative and Comparative Biology