Primates 34(2), 151-159

Hand preference and tool use in wild chimpanzees

Yukimaru Sugiyama, Takao Fushimi, Osamu Sakura, Tetsuro Matsuzawa


The hand preference of chimpanzees in their natural habitat was studied at Bossou, Republic of Guinea, West Africa. The quantitative difference in left/right hand use was small in food picking and carrying. In contrast, the chimpanzees employed either the right or left hand in nutcracking behavior using a pair of stones. All adults and many adolescents and juveniles utilized one hand exclusively for holding a hammer stone. Left hand preference was more prevalent among adults. However, when adolescents and juveniles were included, there was no significant bias in the ratio of left/right handers. Nut-cracking behavior requires long-term learning of the fine manipulation of stones and nuts by both hands. Each hand has a separate role, and the hands work together in nut cracking. The differential and complementary use of both hands may be a prime factor promoting exclusive hand preference in chimpanzees comparable to that of humans.

Sugiyama Y, Fushimi T, Sakura O, Matsuzawa T (1993) Hand preference and tool use in wild chimpanzees Primates 34(2), 151-159