• Laterality of hand function in naturalistically housed chimpanzees

      Fletcher, Alison W.; Weghorst, Jennifer A.; University College Chester ; Washington University (Psychology Press, 2005-05)
      Studies of laterality of hand function in chimpanzees ( Pan troglodytes ) have the potential to tell us about the origins of handedness in Homo sapiens . However, the data are confusing, with discrepancies present between studies done in the field and the laboratory: the former show wild chimpanzees to be unlateralised at the population level, while the latter show captive chimpanzees as lateralised at the population level. This study of 26 semi-free ranging chimpanzees of Chester Zoo, UK, aimed to investigate a situation between the wild and captivity and provided ethological data for 43 categories of spontaneous manual use and 14 categories of tool use. Other variables recorded were subordinate hand activity, whether the subject was arboreal or terrestrial, and the identity of the subject. Using switching focal subject sampling, 23,978 bouts of hand use and 1,090 bouts of tool use were recorded. No population-level handedness was present for manual non-tool use activities in the naturalistically housed chimpanzees of Chester Zoo in a similar way to studies of wild chimpanzees. However, about half of the individuals were lateralised to one side or the other for the foraging behaviours of pick up , eat , and pluck . Using a modified version of McGrew and Marchant's (1997) Laterality Framework, these results are comparable to some wild and captive populations for similar foraging tasks. Bimanuality was rare and thus prevented comparison with captive experimental studies that have reported population right handedness. Behaviour involving contact with water elicited stronger lateralisation. Chester chimpanzees were more likely to exhibit hand preferences for manual tasks with increasing age but there were no effects of sex or rearing history on hand specialisations in adult individuals. Lateralisation was biased in tool use, which evoked significant left hand preferences in half the individuals, with no effect of age. Results are discussed.