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Am J Phys Anthropol. 2012 May;148(1):36-44. doi: 10.1002/ajpa.22038. Epub 2012 Mar 13.

Handedness in nature: first evidence on manual laterality on bimanual coordinated tube task in wild primates.

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Tianjin Key Laboratory of Cyto-Genetical and Molecular Regulation, College of Life Sciences, Tianjin Normal University, China.


Handedness is a defining feature of human manual skill and understanding the origin of manual specialization remains a central topic of inquiry in anthropology and other sciences. In this study, we examined hand preference in a sample of wild primates on a task that requires bimanual coordinated actions (tube task) that has been widely used in captive primates. The Sichuan snub-nosed monkey (Rhinopithecus roxellana) is an arboreal Old World monkey species that is endemic to China, and 24 adult individuals from the Qinling Mountains of China were included for the analysis of hand preference in the tube task. All subjects showed strong individual hand preferences and significant group-level left-handedness was found. There were no significant differences between males and females for either direction or strength of hand preference. Strength of hand preferences of adults was significantly greater than juveniles. Use of the index finger to extract the food was the dominant extractive-act. Our findings represent the first evidence of population-level left-handedness in wild Old World monkeys and broaden our knowledge on evaluating primate hand preference via experimental manipulation in natural conditions.

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