Right-Handed Chimps Provide Clues

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November 17, 2009—Uncovering another link between chimpanzees and humans, a new study found chimps gesture mainly with their right hands. This indicates the chimp brain's left side is used in communication, as in people.

© 2009 National Geographic

Unedited Transcript:

A new study shows chimpanzees seem to use the left half of their brain when communicating with other chimps, just like humans use the left side of the brain for most language skills.

The findings suggest another link between humans and one of the species most closely related to us.

This video of chimpanzees in the wild is from the National Geographic archives.

The study was conducted with captive chimps at Yerkes National Primate Research Center in Atlanta. The findings are published in the January issue of the research journal: Cortex.

The scientists studied hand-use in 70 captive chimpanzees over 10 months. They recorded a variety of communicative gestures specific to chimpanzees produced in different social contexts.

Study supervisor William Hopkins of Agnes Scott College, says they found a predominance of the right hand for gestures, indicating use of the left side of the brain.

Researchers also believe that the finding gives additional support to the idea that speech evolved from gestures in our ancestors. They say the gestures in apes share key features with human language, including intentionality, referential properties and flexibility of learning and use.

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