Observing chimps at Gombe National Park, Emory researchers have found evidence of a left-handed preference (in using sticks to probe for termites, naturally):
Because the hands are controlled by opposite sides of the brain, the finding could indicate that this brain division had begun as long as 5 million years ago, prior to the split between humans and chimpanzees.
Richard W. Byrne of the University of St. Andrews in Fife, United Kingdom, who has reported on hand-preference in mountain gorillas doing complex tasks, said: “It now looks as if whatever gives a population skew to manually skilled behavior has its roots deep in the shared ancestry of humans and all other African great apes…”
Among humans, a right-handed preference has been estimated for about 90% of the population. But Byrne noted that the figure “depends on asking people which hand they write with, and in studies of nonliterate people’s behavior, much lower figures (for right-handedness) are found.”
These findings might explain why we put our knives to the left of the dish, with forks to the right. But what’s the medgadget tie-in? A whole new demographic has opened up for chimp scissor manufacturers.
More from Dr. Hopkins’ earlier research on handedness in captivity…