Hand preferences for coordinated bimanual actions in 777 great apes: Implications for the evolution of handedness in Hominins

William D. Hopkins, Kimberley A. Phillips, Amanda Bania, Sarah E. Calcutt, Molly Gardner, Jamie Russell, Jennifer Schaeffer, Elizabeth V. Lonsdorf, Stephen R. Ross, Steven J. Schapiro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

127 Scopus citations

Abstract

Whether or not nonhuman primates exhibit population-level handedness remains a topic of considerable scientific debate. Here, we examined handedness for coordinated bimanual actions in a sample of 777 great apes including chimpanzees, bonobos, gorillas, and orangutans. We found population-level right-handedness in chimpanzees, bonobos and gorillas, but left-handedness in orangutans. Directional biases in handedness were consistent across independent samples of apes within each genus. We suggest that, contrary to previous claims, population-level handedness is evident in great apes but differs among species as a result of ecological adaptations associated with posture and locomotion. We further suggest that historical views of nonhuman primate handedness have been too anthropocentric, and we advocate for a larger evolutionary framework for the consideration of handedness and other aspects of hemispheric specialization among primates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)605-611
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Human Evolution
Volume60
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - May 2011
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Asymmetry
  • Great apes
  • Handedness
  • Language evolution
  • Laterality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Anthropology

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