Scientists discover that most kangaroos are 'left-handed'

The study involved observing multiple species of marsupial in the wild for extended periods

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The Independent Online

Researchers have discovered that most kangaroos are left-handed, making them the only other species apart from humans to show a 'handedness' on a large scale.

The study, published in biology journal Current Biology, was conducted by a team of Russian scientists, who spent hours observing the behaviour of multiple species in the wild.

The scientists looked at the red kangaroo, red-necked wallaby, eastern grey kangaroo, and found that most animals of these species used their left forelimb far more often than their right.

The study says that two species of kangaroo and the wallaby displayed 'population lateralisation', meaning the animals showed a dominant use of one paw across a whole population.

 

The study also found that this left-handedness is consistent across different types of behaviour, for example when eating, grabbing things, and grooming.

The brush-tailed bettong, a tiny marsupial that resembles a squirrel, also showed a distinct left-handedness equal to that of the kangaroos.

Other marsupials observed in the study, such as Goodfellow's tree kangaroo, the sugar glider, and the grey short-tailed opossum, did not show a similar level of laterality.

These three creatures, unlike the larger marsupials, move on four feet instead of two - the study says this suggests that these postural characteristics are instrumental in whether the animal shows lateralisation.

Animals individually can be observed to show a preference for one side over another, as can be seen when asking a dog for a paw. However, lateralisation has never been proven at a population level before in a species other than humans.

Despite the popular misconception that polar bears are left handed (using their right paw to cover their black nose before killing their prey with their left), these few marsupials are the only non-human animals that mostly use one hand over the other.

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