Laterality of hand use pays off in foraging success for wild chimpanzees

W. C. McGrew*, L. F. Marchant

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

140 Citations (Scopus)


The aim of this study was to see if behavioral lateralization in hand use benefits a lateralized organism in nature. We recorded wild chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii) at Gombe, Tanzania, fishing for termites (Macrotermes spp.), an extractive foraging task using elementary technology. We compared individual apes who were completely lateralized, using only one hand or the other for the task, versus those who were incompletely lateralized, using either hand. Exclusively lateralized individuals were more efficient, that is, gathered more prey per unit effort, but were no different in success or error rate from incompletely lateralized apes. This is the first demonstration of a payoff to laterality of behavioral function in primates in conditions of ecological validity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)509-513
Number of pages5
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1999


  • Foraging
  • Handedness
  • Laterality
  • Pan troglodytes
  • Tool use


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