Do Animals, Like People, Favor One Side?

M. K. Holder, a biological anthropologist at Indiana University in Bloomington, has found no right-handed majority among primates in the wild and argues the artificial environment of captivity and the presence of human influences likely change behavior.

"When animals are housed in artificial social and environmental conditions, eat atypical foods and perform artificial tasks, this can affect behavior," she said.

Humans Not Unique?

But recently new evidence has been mounting that people aren't alone in favoring one side.

A study on humpback whales shows these advanced mammals favor their right sides when snatching prey and when slapping the sea surface. A study on toads found the creatures mostly used their right legs when removing a plastic balloon that researchers had wrapped around their heads. And scientists have found Australian cockatoos appear overwhelmingly left-footed.

The most recent addition of apparently right-oriented New Caledonian has led some to wonder if, when it comes to sharing a preference for one side, most animals are much more like people than previously thought.

"The old idea that this is only in humans and not in other animals is clearly not true," said Hopkins. "I think you could argue a handedness is present in many many animals and it's just a matter of finding them."

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