Friday, February 4, 2011

Why right-footed parrots are the odd ones out in bird kingdom


Best foot forward: Research has found that parrots favour their left side

Not only can parrots talk, it appears they share another human trait – they are also right or left-handed, or in their case footed.

And the majority of them favour their left side.
Researchers studied 320 parrots from 16 Australian species to see which eye they used to view potential foods.

They found that roughly 47 per cent were left handed, 33 per cent right handed, and the remainder ambidextrous.

In addition, in some cases young birds appeared to experiment with both sides before finally settling on one.

Dr Calum Brown, from Macquarie University, Sydney, who led the study, said: ‘Basically, you get this very close relationship with the eye that they use to view the object and then the hand that they use to grasp it, and it’s very consistent across all the species except a couple.

‘In some species, they’re so strongly right or left handed at the species level that there’s effectively no variation.

'With sulphur-crested cockatoos - every single individual we've seen is left-handed. But when you see the juveniles which have just fledged, they're experimenting with both hands, all the time.

'They eventually settle on using their left hands.'

The idea of handedness in humans is tied to the use of one hemisphere of the brain over another, known as 'lateralisation'. In the case of the parrots, this appeared to be an advantage regardless of whether the left or the right side dominated.

'"It's quite obvious that in terms of direct foraging, as well as more complicated problem-solving situations, that if you're very strongly lateralised, irrespective of whether you're right or left handed, you tend to be better at this sort of task.'

Dr Brown added that lateralisation allowed much more efficiency, the way a computer with two processors can do two things simultaneously and effectively multi-task.

'We think that's possibly what's going on with parrots,' he said.
The study is published in Biological Letters.

source: dailymail

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