ABS 2022
Putting the Best Foot Forward: Limb Lateralization in the Goffin's Cockatoo
Jennifer A. D. Colbourne1, Léo Hanon2, Irene M. Pepperberg3, Alice M. I. Auersperg1. 1University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna, Vienna, , Austria; 2Université de Bourgogne, Dijon, , France; 3The Alex Foundation, Cambridge, MA, United States

Very few species are limb lateralized to the same degree as human handedness. Yet nearly every species of cockatoo shows extreme levels of “footedness,” with most members exhibiting a consistent preference for the use of the left foot when feeding. In our sample of nine Goffin’s cockatoos (Cacatua goffiniana), we investigated whether tasks with different physical requirements and cognitive complexity affected footedness. In line with previous research, we found in our baseline task that 86% of the Goffin’s cockatoos were left-footed when holding and consuming a food item. The subjects were subsequently given simple and complex versions of a food extraction task, a string-pulling task and a reaching task. Our results indicate that posture may be the most influential factor affecting foot use, as most of the cockatoos changed from their dominant preferred foot in the reaching tasks which required precarious balancing on one foot, including the right-footed cockatoos. We discuss these findings in light of the predictions made by MacNeilage’s postural origins hypothesis and Roger’s enhanced cognition hypothesis.