For anyone who has observed gorillas in the zoo, it is often stunning to see how similar they are to humans. The likeness should be of no surprise, considering that humans and the diverse species of primates belong to the same biological group known as hominids—or great apes.
This was clearly on display in a recent post from Zoo Atlanta celebrating the 6th birthday of Anaka, a Western Lowland Gorilla. The post not only commemorated the happy occasion of her birthday, but it also conveyed the fact that her hands looked strikingly, well… human-like.
As the post notes, Anaka’s fingers have pink pigmentation rather than the usual darker pigmentation. Zoo Atlanta explained:
“You can always pick her out of Taz’s family group because of the unique pink pigmentation on her fingers.”
But looked at on its own, without caption or explanation, her hand looks very much like a small human hand with vitiligo—a long-term skin condition that causes people to lose their skin pigmentation in uneven blotches. The zoomed-in image shows Anaka’s short nails as well as the creases in her fingers.
Social media users were stunned by the photos. One person commented:
“Her hands look like she’s been in the garden with me this morning…”
While another awestruck user wrote:
“I don’t know why I never thought of gorillas as having finger nails.”
All primates have unique fingerprints and toeprints, which are often used for identification purposes. Gorillas, like humans, also have opposable thumbs. Likewise, they have that unique attribute we often take for granted: fingernails, rather than claws, which are used for what else but scratching, scraping, cleaning, and opening things.
While many believe that Anaka has vitiligo, the zoo told Facebook user Morena Lale that it wasn’t likely the case. In a comment, Lale wrote:
“I asked this question … and this is their reply: ‘Well, her skin pigment has always been like that and hasn’t changed over the years, so we think it’s just a cool birthmark.’”
Research has shown that humans, chimps, and gorillas all evolved from a common ancestor some 10 million years ago. The similarities between our species are noticeable not only in terms of shared anatomical features but sometimes in our similar behavior, as well.
Anaka, with her totally unique personality, actually sounds like some little sisters we may know! Zoo Atlanta explains that Anaka is “often barking at her mom and others to get a prime spot for food and juice [and] seen riding piggyback on her brother and sisters.”