Left versus right nipple preference in free-ranging infant rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta)



The examination of nonhuman primate (NHP) lateralized behaviors may provide insight into the evolution of hemispheric specialization. This study examined nipple preference in 64 infant macaques in order to consider the ontogeny of lateralized behavior. We used a focal animal sampling method to record nipple contact during 15, 30-min observation sessions collected across each infant's first year of life. Using a lateralized behavior index (LBI) we calculated individual and population preferences (LBI = (R−L)/(R + L); “R” = mean right nipple contact, “L” = mean left nipple contact). Strength of preference was calculated as the absolute value of this score. Infants exhibited no population preference for a particular nipple, but showed a significant strength of preference that developed after 48 hr. Interestingly, successive siblings preferred the nipple not used by the previous infant. These findings suggest that nipple preference is guided by external stimuli, and that nipple preference during infancy may not be a behavioral representation of hemispheric specialization. © 2006 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Dev Psyshobiol 48: 266–272, 2006.