If a disease as deadly as Ebola spreads throughout a community, cutting it down to only a fraction of what it was before, will that population ever recover? In the case of great apes at least, a new study in the Journal of Animal Ecology suggests the answer is yes.

In 2003 and 2004, the Ebola virus spread through a population of western lowland gorillas in the Republic of the Congo’s Odzala-Kokoua National Park, cutting the numbers there to 40, down from around 380 great apes. The mortality rate induced a variety of changes in the community structure. Breeding groups of gorillas (which usually consist of one silverback male, three or four females, their offspring, and young blackback males), were more likely to disband, especially if the silverback died, with some immigrating to other troops and many young males shifting to solitary life. [Read more]

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