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Vol. 79, No. 5, 2008
Issue release date: August 2008

Handedness in Captive Bonobos (Pan paniscus)

Harrison R.M. · Nystrom P.
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Species level right-handedness is often considered to be unique to humans. Handedness is held to be interrelated to our language ability and has been used as a means of tracing the evolution of language. Here we examine handedness in 3 captive groups of bonobos (Pan paniscus) comprising 22 individuals. We found no evidence for species level handedness. Conclusions that can be drawn from these findings are: (1) species level handedness evolved after the divergence of the Pan and Homo lineages; (2) inconsistent preferences may represent precursors to human handedness, and (3) Pan may have language abilities but these cannot be measured using handedness.

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