WTF Fun Fact 13489 – Most Orangutans are Left Handed

If you’re a lefty, you have more in common with an orangutan than just 97% of your DNA since most orangutans are left-handed too. One neuroscientist, Bill Hopkins, said his research showed around 66% of orangutans to be lefties.

Studying Handedness in Orangutans

Curiosity sparked the investigation into orangutan handedness. Scientists found themselves wondering – do these creatures prefer one hand over the other, like us humans? It’s something we’ve all thought about, right? No? Ok, well anyway.

Researchers observed orangutans in their natural and semi-natural habitats. Hopkins appears to be the only one who suggested the specific 66% number. But plenty of other research has found that while some primates like chimpanzees and bonobos (our closest relatives) tend to be right-hand dominant, gorillas and orangutans are not.

What Does it Mean that Most Orangutans are Left-Handed?

Just like in humans, an orangutan’s hand preference comes from the brain. We call it “cerebral lateralization” – a fancy term for one side of the brain being bossier than the other.

The left hemisphere controls right-handedness, and the right hemisphere oversees left-handedness. Both genes and environment play a part in this.

But a mystery remains. Why do orangutans tend to be left-handed more often when compared to humans and other great apes?

Out in the wild, being left-handed doesn’t make the orangutans any less skillful. They foraged for food, made comfy nests, and swung from tree to tree with aplomb. Whether peeling fruit or brachiating through the forest, left-handed orangutans showed no signs of struggle.

Now here’s an intriguing question. We humans share 97% of our DNA with orangutans, so why aren’t more of us left-handed? Researchers are keen on finding an answer. They hope to understand how and why hand preference might have shifted during human evolution.

Orangutans, like us, are social animals. They have a rich array of communication methods at their disposal. This research is igniting interest in the connection between left-handedness and communication. Also, it has made scientists curious about the potential link between hand preference and cognitive abilities.

A Curious Conclusion

The higher percentage of left-handedness in orangutans adds an exciting twist to our understanding of these creatures. It opens up a new avenue for exploration: Why this hand preference? How does it affect their survival, adaptation, and mental prowess?

Researchers are now actively trying to link left-handedness to the species’ behavior and neural traits. They’re also excited to understand how this discovery could shape our understanding of human evolution.

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Source: “Do Other Animals Show Handedness?” — Science Friday


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