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Why are some people left-handed? An evolutionary perspective

By V. Llaurens, M. Raymond and C. Faurie

Abstract

Since prehistoric times, left-handed individuals have been ubiquitous in human populations, exhibiting geographical frequency variations. Evolutionary explanations have been proposed for the persistence of the handedness polymorphism. Left-handedness could be favoured by negative frequency-dependent selection. Data have suggested that left-handedness, as the rare hand preference, could represent an important strategic advantage in fighting interactions. However, the fact that left-handedness occurs at a low frequency indicates that some evolutionary costs could be associated with left-handedness. Overall, the evolutionary dynamics of this polymorphism are not fully understood. Here, we review the abundant literature available regarding the possible mechanisms and consequences of left-handedness. We point out that hand preference is heritable, and report how hand preference is influenced by genetic, hormonal, developmental and cultural factors. We review the available information on potential fitness costs and benefits acting as selective forces on the proportion of left-handers. Thus, evolutionary perspectives on the persistence of this polymorphism in humans are gathered for the first time, highlighting the necessity for an assessment of fitness differences between right- and left-handers

Topics: Review
Publisher: The Royal Society
OAI identifier: oai:pubmedcentral.nih.gov:2666081
Provided by: PubMed Central
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