A comprehensive new study revealed something that surprised the researchers: kangaroos are left-handed animals.
To come to this unexpected conclusion, the scientists observed numerous kangaroos living in their natural habitat in Australia and Tasmania and found that the marsupials prefer to use their left forelimbs when doing everyday tasks, like grooming or feeding.
The new findings are surprising mostly because until now researchers assumed that handedness is actually a trait unique to humans and primates.
Scientists found that not only the kangaroos are left-handed, but they exhibit a more “true” handedness than humans.
The findings of the new study were published in the scientific journal Current Biology.
Yegor Malashichev, researcher at the Saint Petersburg State University in Russia and the lead author of the study, said that kangaroos preferred to use their left hand and not their right one.
The study involved a special scale that measured the handedness of primates and bipedal marsupial scored the highest.
According to the researchers, they didn’t expect kangaroos to exhibit handedness, mainly because, compared to humans, most mammals don’t have a special neural circuit responsible for connecting the left and the right hemispheres of the brain.
Studying the red and eastern gray kangaroos, the researchers observed that the animals preferred to use their left hand for daily tasks such as plucking leafs from trees, grooming their nose or bending branches to grasp the leaves.
Malashichev said he was very surprised to see kangaroos are left-handed, and the more they observed the marsupials, the more the researchers were beginning to believe they were witnessing a new and interesting behavior in the wild.
The forelimbs of kangaroos have five fingers and resemble to some extent the human hands. But instead of having fingernails like humans and primates, the marsupials have long claws.
Previous studies have suggested that human handedness may be associated with certain neuropsychiatric conditions like autism and schizophrenia, and researchers believe that the new findings could prove very important in learning more about these conditions.
The scientists believe that further studies of the marsupial brain, which is different from the brain of other mammals in many ways, could be very useful in this regard.
Malashichev writes in his study that he and his team are planning to further explore handedness in other species of bipedal animals.
They’re hoping that these studies will provide new insights on the evolution of species.
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