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Keywords:

  • hand preferences;
  • wild orang-utans;
  • locomotion;
  • feeding;
  • limb use

Abstract

Limited data are available on hemispheric lateralization in wild orang-utans. There has been only one previous investigation of limb preferences in wild orang-utans [Yeager, 1991]. We examined the lateralization of limb use in wild Bornean orang-utans (Pongo pygmaeus pygmaeus) with the aim of providing more insight into possible hemispheric specialization in wild nonhuman primates. Here, we report in detail on limb use and preference during arboreal locomotion between trees (N=6) and on feeding involving one limb (N=8) and two limbs (N=6). We distinguished between locomotion between overlapping trees (Type I) and locomotion involving gap crossing (Types II and III). For locomotion Type I, the six orang-utans showed no leading hand preference, however for locomotion Types II and III, all six showed significant right-hand preferences. All eight orang-utans showed individual hand preferences for reaching for food, but no significant group bias was found. Limb preferences for feeding involving two limbs (hand–hand or hand–foot) differed between juveniles (right hand–right foot), adult females (left hand–right hand) and adult males (right hand–left hand). Although not present for all tasks, the results indicate that orang-utans do show evidence of hemispheric specialization, but the use of the hands is not under a strong lateralized hemispheric control and is adaptable. Am. J. Primatol. 70:261–270, 2008. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.