Date of Award

5-2017

Degree Type

Honors College Thesis

Department

Biological Sciences

First Advisor

David Echevarria, Ph.D.

Advisor Department

Psychology

Abstract

Laterality is defined as the occurrence of each cerebral hemisphere having asymmetric control over the different sides of the body, leading to preferences to use one side of the body over the other for various behaviors. Many types of laterality exist, but handedness is the form that is most predominantly assessed. Handedness in animals is of special interest to laterality researchers, as humans were once thought to be the only species that exhibited lateralized hand preferences. The aim of the current study was to determine if Asian small-clawed otters exhibit significant paw preferences in behaviors associated with completing a tool-use task. Video data of the otters completing the task was analyzed for specific paw interactions with the tool-use apparatus, and the percentage of correct completion of the task was documented for each otter. Overall, no significant paw preference was present. However, individual differences in paw preference as well as differences in task performance were present. The results showed that paw preference (or lack thereof) did affect the tool-use task completion for some otters, and for others, the preference did not seem to have an effect. The main implications of this study are that paw preferences in Asian small-clawed otters are present on an individual level when solving a novel tool-use task.

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