International Journal of Primatology

, Volume 32, Issue 2, pp 491-510

First online:

Hand Preferences for Bimanual Coordination in 77 Bonobos (Pan paniscus): Replication and Extension

  • A. S. ChapelainAffiliated withDepartment of Human Sciences, Loughborough University Email author 
  • , E. HogervorstAffiliated withDepartment of Human Sciences, Loughborough University
  • , P. MbonzoAffiliated withSanctuaire des bonobos, Lola Ya Bonobo, Association ABC
  • , W. D. HopkinsAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Agnes Scott CollegeDivision of Psychobiology, Yerkes National Primate Research Center

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The literature on manual laterality in nonhuman primates provides inconsistent and inconclusive findings and is plagued by methodological issues (e.g., small samples, inconsistency in methods, inappropriate measures) and gaps. Few data are available on bonobos and these are only from small samples and for relatively simple tasks. We examined laterality in a large sample of bonobos for a complex task. We tested 48 bonobos from Lola Ya Bonobo sanctuary (DR Congo) in an extension of our previous study of 29 bonobos from 3 European zoos. We assessed hand preferences using the tube task, which involves bimanual coordination: one hand extracts food from a tube that is held by the other hand. This task is a good measure of laterality and it has been used in other studies. We recorded events (frequency) and independent bouts of food extraction. We found significant manual laterality, which was not influenced by the settings or rearing history. We observed little effect of sex and found an influence of age, with greater right hand use in adults. The laterality was marked, with strong preferences and most individuals being lateralized (when analyzing frequency). We found individual preferences, with no group-level bias, even when we combined the data from the sanctuary and the zoos to enlarge the sample to 77. These first data, for a complex task and based on a large sample, are consistent with previous findings in bonobos and in other nonhuman primate species for a variety of tasks. They suggest that, despite particular features in terms of proximity to humans, language and bipedalism, bonobos do not display a laterality that is more marked or more similar to human handedness compared to that of other nonhuman primate species.


Bimanual coordination Bonobos Hand preference Laterality Manipulation Tube task