Animal Cognition

, Volume 11, Issue 3, pp 401–411 | Cite as

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

  • P. A. Garber
  • D. F. Gomes
  • J. C. Bicca-Marques
Original Paper


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.


Handedness Laterality Tool use Capuchin monkeys 



We wish to thank William Hopkins and two anonymous reviewers for their insights into strengthening this manuscript. We thank La Suerte Biological Research Station, Costa Rica for permission to conduct research on C. capucinus, and Mrs Leonor Bastian for permission to conduct research on C. nigritus in Brazil. Funds to support this research were provided by the Research Board of the University of Illinois, Urbana, IL, USA and CAPES, Brazil. PAG wishes to thank Chrissie, Sara, and Jenni for their love and support. JCBM wishes to thank Cláudia, Gabriel, and Ana Beatriz for making up a wonderful family. DFG wishes to acknowledge Oiram, Denise, and Vinícius for their love, stimulus and help during this study.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • P. A. Garber
    • 1
  • D. F. Gomes
    • 2
  • J. C. Bicca-Marques
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyUniversity of IllinoisUrbanaUSA
  2. 2.Faculdade de BiociênciasPontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio Grande do SulPorto AlegreBrazil

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