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Anim Cogn. 2008 Jul;11(3):401-11. doi: 10.1007/s10071-007-0130-3. Epub 2008 Jan 9.

Experimental field study of hand preference in wild black-horned (Cebus nigritus) and white-faced (Cebus capucinus) capuchins: evidence for individual and species differences.

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Department of Anthropology, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL 61801, USA.


In this experimental field investigation, we compare the degree to which wild capuchins in Brazil (Cebus nigritus) and Costa Rica (Cebus capucinus) exhibit individual- and population-level handedness during three visually-guided tasks. These tasks required reaching to remove a large leaf covering a hidden food reward, seizing the food reward, and manipulating a tool (pulling a wooden dowel) in order to obtain access to an embedded food reward. Studies in some populations of captive capuchins indicate evidence for both individual hand preferences and population-level handedness. In this study, six of eight wild C. capucinus and six of seven wild C. nigritus exhibited a significant hand preference during individual tasks, but no individual exhibited a consistent preference across all three tasks. Task-specialization, or the tendency for most individuals in the same group or population to use the same hand to accomplish a particular task, also was evaluated. Cebus nigritus showed a significant bias toward the use of the right hand in removing the leaf. Although the number of individual capuchins in both species that manipulated the dowels was limited (N = 7), each individual that manipulated the dowels in eight or more instances had a positive handedness index, suggesting a greater use of the right hand to accomplish this task. Overall, our results provide preliminary support for individual- and population-level handedness in wild capuchin monkeys.

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