• hand preference;
  • forced food grasping task;
  • evolution;
  • Microcebus;
  • primates


In humans, 90% of the population is right handed. Although population hand preference has been found in some primate species, the evolution of manual lateralization in primates is not yet clear. To gain insight into manual lateralization of ancestral primates, we studied hand usage in unspecialized quadrupedal, nocturnal lemurs, using a large sample size. We compared two closely related mouse lemur species to explore the variation of hand preference within the same genus. We tested 44 gray mouse lemurs and 19 Goodman's mouse lemurs in a forced food grasping task. The tests were videotaped. Measures of hand preference (i.e. the hand that is spontaneously chosen for a specific task) and successful hand usage (i.e. the hand that is successful in completing a specific task) were taken to explore manual lateralization. Both species showed manual lateralization at an individual, but not at a population level. Goodman's mouse lemurs showed stronger individual hand preferences than gray mouse lemurs. This suggests that strength in hand preference is variable within the same genus. No sex and age effects were found. The hand preference of offspring was negatively correlated to that of their mothers, but not correlated to that of their fathers. Thus, no clear genetic effect can be derived from these results. In the Goodman's mouse lemurs, hand preference increased with increasing task experience. However, successful hand usage was not affected by task experience, suggesting that successful hand usage is a more stable measurement for manual lateralization than hand preference. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2008. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.