Observations of hand preference in wild groups of white-faced sakis (Pithecia pithecia) in Suriname



Hand preference is well observed in humans and some primates. Unlike many other primates, however, humans show a consistent hand preference across a variety of tasks, and a distinct right-handed skew at the population level. Although there are a moderate number of published studies, primate hand preference literature is unbalanced by the large number of studies on only a few species. No previous studies have addressed hand preference in white-faced sakis (WFS; Pithecia pithecia). We followed three habituated groups of wild WFS in Suriname and recorded individual hand preference for six different manual behaviors. There was no consistent hand preference across a range of uni-manual behaviors for any individual. Likewise, there were significantly more ambidextrous individuals in the population than expected (χ2(df = 2) = 11.2, P = 0.004) and thus, no population level hand preference. Our findings contribute baseline data to the debate of primate hand lateralization, and support the notion that lateralization of hand function does not characterize all species. Am. J. Primatol. 73:655–664, 2011. © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.