Excellence in Research – Social Sciences, Business & Humanities (2011 Highly Commended)

Evolution of hand preferences in Australian parrots

Dr Culum Brown
Department Biological Sciences, Faculty of Science, Macquarie University


University of Sydney
Miss Dianna Maggat, Centre for Vascular Research


The evolution of hand preferences in Australian Parrots research shows that parrots show very strong population level hand preferences similar to those seen in humans but great variability exists between and within species. Phylogenetic analyses suggest that the strength of hand preference is linked to foraging ecology. Parrots that extract seed from large seed pods using coordinated foot-eye-beak movements are more strongly lateralised than those that graze on seeds and nectar. Strongly lateralised parrots are also more capable of solving novel problems. The emergence of non-lateralised feeding was associated with a decrease in body size and coincides with the increasing aridity of the Australian landscape.

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