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Keywords:

  • handedness;
  • bimanual;
  • unimanual;
  • hemispheric specialization

Abstract

Right-hand dominance is widely considered to be a uniquely human trait. Whether nonhuman primates exhibit similar population-level hand preferences remains a topic of considerable debate. Despite extensive research focusing on laterality in nonhuman primates, our interpretation of these studies is limited due to methodological issues including the lack of a common measure of hand preference and the use of tasks that may not be reliable indicators of handedness. The use of consistent methods between studies is necessary to enable comparisons within and between species and allow for more general conclusions to be drawn from these results. The present study replicates methods used in recent research reporting population-level right-handedness in captive gorillas (Meguerditchian et al.,2010). Observational data were collected on hand preference for unimanual and bimanual feeding in 14 captive western lowland gorillas (Gorilla gorilla gorilla). Individual-level preferences were found, primarily for bimanual feeding; however, the data reveal no group-level directional bias (contra Meguerditchian et al.). Like the study by Meguerditchian et al. (2010), though, bimanual feeding revealed significantly stronger hand preferences than unimanual reaching, and age, sex, group membership, or rearing history had no effect on hand preference. Finally, variations in diet and corresponding grip type between studies suggest that hand preferences may vary across bimanual tasks depending on grip morphology. This study aims to contribute to our existing knowledge of primate laterality by increasing the number of individuals investigated using methods that allow for comparisons with similar research. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2012. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.