Animal Cognition

, Volume 4, Issue 3, pp 347–361

Manual dexterity in the gorilla: bimanual and digit role differentiation in a natural task

Authors

  • Richard W. Byrne
    • Scottish Primate Research Group, University of St Andrews, School of Psychology, St Andrews, Fife KY16 9JU, Scotland
  • Nadia Corp
    • Scottish Primate Research Group, University of St Andrews, School of Psychology, St Andrews, Fife KY16 9JU, Scotland
  • Jennifer M. Byrne
    • Scottish Primate Research Group, University of St Andrews, School of Psychology, St Andrews, Fife KY16 9JU, Scotland
Original Article

DOI: 10.1007/s100710100083

Cite this article as:
Byrne, R.W., Corp, N. & Byrne, J.M. Anim.Cogn. (2001) 4: 347. doi:10.1007/s100710100083

Abstract

The manipulative actions of mountain gorillas Gorilla g. beringei were examined in the context of foraging on hard-to-process plant foods in the field, in particular those used in tackling thistle Carduus nyassanus. A repertoire of 72 functionally distinct manipulative actions was recorded. Many of these actions were used in several variants of grip, finger(s) and movement path, both by different individuals and by the same individual at different times. The repertoire appears somewhat greater than that observed in comparable studies of monkeys, but a far more striking difference is found in the use of differentiated actions in concert. Mountain gorillas routinely and frequently deal with problems that involve: (1) bimanual role differentiation, with the two hands taking different roles but synchronized in time and space, and (2) digit role differentiation, with independent control of parts of the same hand used for separate purposes at the same time. The independent control that allows these abilities, so crucial to human manual constructional ability, is apparently general in African great apes. Role differentiation, between and within the hand, is evidently a primitive characteristic in the human arsenal of skills.

Great ape Mountain gorilla Feeding skill Independent control Bimanual coordination

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2001