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Laterality in hand use across four tool-use behaviors among the wild chimpanzees of Bossou, Guinea, West Africa.

Tatyana Humle, Tetsuro Matsuzawa

American Journal of Primatology, 70, 40-48., doi: 10.1002/ajp.20616


Population-level right handedness is a human universal, whose evolutionary origins are the source of considerable empirical and theoretical debate. Although our closest neighbor, the chimpanzee, shows some evidence for population-level handedness in captivity, there is little evidence from the wild. Tool-use measures of hand use in chimpanzees have yielded a great deal of variation in directionality and strength in hand preference, which still remains largely unexplored and unexplained. Data on five measures of hand use across four tool-use skills—ant-dipping, algae-scooping, pestle-pounding and nut-cracking—among the wild chimpanzees of Bossou, Guinea, West Africa, are presented here. This study aims to explore age- and sex-class effects, as well as the influence of task motor, cognitive and haptic demands, on the strength and directionality of hand preference within and across all five measures of hand use. Although there was no age- or sex-class effect on the directionality of hand preference, immature ≤10 years old tended to be less lateralized than adults, especially adult females. Nut-cracking, the most cognitively complex of the four behaviors and the only one requiring complementary coordination of both hands, yielded the greatest strength in hand use with all adults expressing exclusive use of one hand over the other, without overall significant directional preference. The least lateralized behavior was pestle-pounding, which required bimanual coordination, but also imposed constraints owing to fatigue. It emerged that only the most hazardous tool use, i.e. ant-dipping, and the sole haptic task, i.e. the extraction by hand of crushed oil-palm heart, were laterally biased and both to the right. Shared motor or grip patterns in tool-use skills failed to reveal any specialization in hand use at the individual level. Finally, Bossou chimpanzees demonstrated a tendency for a population-level right-hand use.


chimpanzee, hand use, tool use, laterality, Bossou

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