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.
Hopkins, W. D., Phillips, K. A., Bania, A., Calcutt, S. E., Gardner, M., Russell, J., Schaeffer, J., ... Schapiro, S. J. (2011). Hand preferences for coordinated bimanual actions in 777 great apes: Implications for the evolution of handedness in Hominins. Journal of Human Evolution, 60(5), 605-611. doi: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2010.12.008
Journal of Human Evolution