Journal of Ethology

, Volume 27, Issue 3, pp 419–428 | Cite as

Patterns and laterality of hand use in free-ranging aye-ayes (Daubentonia madagascariensis) and a comparison with captive studies



We observed hand use in free-ranging aye-ayes (Daubentonia madagascariensis) on an island in the Mananara River, eastern Madagascar. The results were compared with those of two conflicting studies on hand laterality in captive aye-ayes. We argue that patterns of hand preference in wild aye-ayes are comparable to those of captive animals and that discrepancies between studies are—at least partly—caused by different ways of collecting and processing data. Aye-ayes fit Level 2 of the categories of hand laterality described by McGrew and Marchant (Yearb Phys Anthropol 40:201–232, 1997), with some individuals showing significant hand preference, but with the proportion of right- to left-preferent animals being very close to 1:1. We observed hand preference to be consistent for two of the most frequent behaviors, tapping and probing with fingers. Reaching and holding objects in hands is rare in aye-ayes, and the patterns of hand use in aye-ayes are therefore not directly comparable with those of other prosimians in which laterality has been studied. We detected no effect of sex on hand preference and were unable to determine whether there is an effect of age. The posture adopted by the animals did not influence hand preference.


Daubentonia madagascariensis Foraging Hand Laterality Madagascar Primates Prosimians 


  1. Adriamasimanana M (1994) Ecoethological study of free-ranging aye-ayes (Daubentonia madagascariensis) in Madagascar. Folia Primatol 62:37–45CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Altmann J (1974) Observational study of behavior: sampling methods. Behaviour 49:227–267PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Ancrenaz M, Lackman-Ancrenaz I, Mundy N (1994) Field observations of aye-ayes (Daubentonia madagascariensis) in Madagascar. Folia Primatol 62:22–36PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Curtis DJ, Feistner ATC (1994) Positional behavior in captive aye-ayes (Daubentonia madagascariensis). Folia Primatol 62:115–159CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Dodson DL, Stafford D, Forsythe C, Seltzer CP, Ward JP (1992) Laterality in quadrupedal and bipedal prosimians: reach and whole-body turn in the mouse lemur (Microcebus murinus) and the galago (Galago moholi). Am J Primatol 26:191–202CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Erickson CJ (1994) Tap-scanning and extractive foraging in aye-ayes, Daubentonia madagascariensis. Folia Primatol 62:125–135PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Feistner ATC, Price EC, Milliken GW (1994) Preliminary observations on hand preference for tapping, digit-feeding and food-holding in captive aye-ayes (Daubentonia madagascariensis). Folia Primatol 62:136–141PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Forsythe C, Ward JP (1988) Black lemur (Lemur macaco) hand preference in food reaching. Primates 29:369–374CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Forsythe C, Milliken GW, Stafford DK, Ward JP (1988) Posturally related variations in the hand preferences of the ruffed lemur (Varecia variegata variegata). J Comp Psychol 102:248–250PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Hook MA (2004) The evolution of lateralized motor functions. In: Rogers LJ, Kalpan G (eds) Comparative vertebrate cognition. Kluwer/Plenum, New York, pp 325–370Google Scholar
  11. Hopkins WD (1999) On the other hand: statistical issues in the assessment and interpretation of hand preference data in nonhuman primates. Int J Primatol 20:851–866CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Iwano T (1991) The usage of the digits of a captive aye-aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis). Afr Study Monogr 12:87–98Google Scholar
  13. Krakauer EB (2004) Development of foraging skills in the aye-aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis). Am J Phys Anthropol Suppl 38:128Google Scholar
  14. Larson CF, Dodson DL, Ward JP (1989) Hand preferences and whole-body turning biases of lesser bushbabies (Galago senegalensis). Brain Behav Evol 33:261–267PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Lhota S, Jùnek T, Bartoš L, Kubìna AA (2008) Specialized use of two fingers in free-ranging aye-ayes (Daubentonia madagascariensis). Am J Primatol 70:786–795PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. MacNeilage PF, Studdert-Kennedy MG, Lindblom B (1987) Primate handedness reconsidered. Behav Brain Sci 10:247–303CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Marchant LF, McGrew WC (1996) Laterality of limb function in wild chimpanzees of Gombe National Park: comprehensive study of spontaneous activities. J Hum Evol 30:427–443CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. McGrew WC, Marchant LF (1997) On the other hand: current issues in and meta-analysis of the behavioral laterality of hand function in nonhuman primates. Yearb Phys Anthropol 40:201–232CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. McGrew WC, Marchant LF (2001) Ethological study of manual laterality in chimpanzees of the Mahale Mountains, Tanzania. Behaviour 130:329–358CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Milliken GW (1995) Right hand preference and performance biases in the foraging behavior of the aye-ayes. In: Alterman L, Doyle GA, Izard MK (eds) Creatures of the dark: the nocturnal prosimians. Plenum, New York, pp 261–291Google Scholar
  21. Milliken GW, Stafford DK, Dodson DL, Pinger CD, Ward JP (1991) Analysis of feeding lateralization in the small-eared bushbaby (Otolemur garnettiii): a comparison with the ring-tailed lemur (Lemur catta). J Comp Psychol 105:274–285PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Milliken GW, Ferra G, Kraiter KS, Ross CL (2005) Reach and posture hand preferences during arboreal feeding in sifakas (Propithecus sp.): a test of the postural origins theory of behavioral lateralization. J Comp Psychol 119:430–439PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Mittra ES, Fuentes A, McGrew WC (1997) Lack of hand preference in wild Hanuman langurs (Presbytis entellus). Am J Phys Anthropol 103:455–461PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Panger M (1998) Hand preference in free-ranging white-throated capuchins (Cebus capucinus) in Costa Rica. Int J Primatol 19:133–163CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Rigamonti MM, Spiezio C, Poli MD, Fazio F (2005) Laterality of manual function in foraging and positional behavior in wild indri (Indri indri). Am J Primatol 65:27–38PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Sanford C, Guin K, Ward JP (1984) Posture and laterality in bushbaby (Galago senegalensis). Brain Behav Evol 25:217–224PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Shaw MC, Wolfe LD, Panger MA (2004) The potential effects of sex, posture, and living condition on lateralized behaviors in ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta). Hum Evol 19:113–129CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Stafford DK, Milliken GW, Ward JP (1993) Patterns of hand and mouth lateral biases in bamboo leaf shoot feeding and simple food reaching in the gentle lemur (Hapalemur griseus). Am J Primatol 29:195–207CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Sterling EJ (1994) Aye-ayes: specialists on structurally defended resources. Folia Primatol 62:142–154PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Ward JP (1995) Laterality in African and Malagasy prosimians. In: Alterman L, Doyle GA, Izard MK (eds) Creatures of the dark: the nocturnal prosimians. Plenum, New York, pp 293–309Google Scholar
  31. Ward JP, Milliken GW, Dodson DL, Stafford DK, Wallace M (1990) Handedness as a function of sex and age in a large population of Lemur. J Comp Psychol 04:167–173CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Ward JP, Milliken GW, Stafford DK (1993) Patterns of lateralized behavior in prosimians. In: Ward JP, Hopkins WD (eds) Primate laterality: current behavioral evidence of primate asymmetries. Springer, New York, pp 43–74Google Scholar
  33. Warren JM (1980) Handedness and laterality in humans and other animals. Physiol Psychol 8:351–359Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Japan Ethological Society and Springer 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stanislav Lhota
    • 1
    • 2
  • Tomáš Jůnek
    • 3
  • Luděk Bartoš
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Zoology, Faculty of ScienceUniversity of South BohemiaČeské BudějoviceCzech Republic
  2. 2.Ústí nad Labem ZooÚstí nad LabemCzech Republic
  3. 3.Department of Zoology, Faculty of ScienceCharles UniversityPragueCzech Republic
  4. 4.Ethology GroupInstitute of Animal SciencePraha-UhříněvesCzech Republic

Personalised recommendations