Handedness in captive gorillas (Gorilla gorilla)

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Abstract

Species-level right handedness is frequently presented as a marker of human uniqueness. Handedness also has implications for the evolution of language and cognition. In this study, we examined handedness in 22 captive gorillas (Gorilla gorilla) across a range of behaviours that were part of their daily routine. Ten individuals showed no preferences for any of the behaviours performed, and the majority of the remaining individuals showed a preference for only one behaviour. These results lend support to the theory that species-level handedness is unique to humans. It is hoped that these results will contribute to investigations into the evolution of handedness, which can ultimately be used to further our understanding of the evolution of human language and cognition.

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Acknowledgments

This research was supported by grants from the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research (Grant number Gr. 6581) and the Leakey Trust (UK). We are extremely grateful to the personnel at Berlin, Stuttgart, Chessington, Edinburgh and London zoos for granting permission to study the subjects and for all of their assistance. We would also like to thank the two reviewers for their constructive comments and William McGrew for his encouragement and advice.

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Correspondence to Rebecca M. Harrison.

Appendix

Appendix

See Tables 5, 6, 7, and 8.

Table 5 Overall limb use for all individuals and each population, including the use of hands, feet or a combination of both, showing total numbers and percentages of bouts
Table 6 Limb use for all individuals and each population for each behaviour, showing total numbers and percentages of bouts
Table 7 Hand preference for all individuals and each population during different postures, showing total numbers and percentages of bouts
Table 8 Hand preference for all individuals and each population for different grips, showing total numbers and percentages of bouts

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Harrison, R.M., Nystrom, P. Handedness in captive gorillas (Gorilla gorilla). Primates 51, 251–261 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10329-010-0191-9

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Keywords

  • Gorilla
  • Handedness
  • Laterality of function