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Right Handed or Right Flippered?

People aren't the only ones who are left or right handed. Walruses, for instance, prefer to use their right flipper to search for clams, and the bones in their right limbs are longer than the ones in their left. Handedness has even been found in crows that use the right side of their beaks to make tools to catch insects. Humpback whales use either the right or left side of their jaw to catch fish, and seals prefer one flipper to beat eels out of the sand.

Helen Briggs writes in BBC News Online that scientists have studied handedness in people for more than 150 years, but still don't know why right-handers vastly outnumber lefties. It seems to have something to do with the way the brain is organized into two halves, which allows each side to specialize in different functions. "Some people say handedness developed in primates from tool manipulations," says researcher Nette Levermann, "but this cannot be the driving force because it is found in walruses and, to a certain extent, in humpback whales and catfish."

"It is not surprising to me that handedness appears in bilaterally symmetrical animals," says Mike Fedak. "Any task that involves only using one limb rather than both might be learned favorably on one side."

Is Bigfoot right-pawed? (This book is part of our new overstock sale).

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