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Ambidextrous squirrels can out-think their rivals and learn new skills more quickly, study shows 

Ambidextrous squirrels who use both paws can out-think their rivals and learn new skills more quickly, study shows

  • Researchers found that squirrels are strongly ‘lateralised’ and favour one side
  • This trait is believed to make the human brain more efficient 
  • But seems to be a drawback for squirrels when compared to ambidextrous ones

Being right or left handed is an evolutionary trait that gives humans an advantage.

But scientists have found the same is not, apparently, true for squirrels.

In a study, those which preferred to use one paw over the other were less good at learning new tasks.

Researchers found that, like humans, squirrels are strongly 'lateralised' and favoured one side over the other (stock image)

Researchers found that, like humans, squirrels are strongly ‘lateralised’ and favoured one side over the other (stock image)

Researchers found that, like humans, squirrels are strongly ‘lateralised’ and favoured one side over the other.

However, while this is believed to make the human brain more efficient, it appeared to be a drawback for squirrels when compared to ambidextrous ones.

The scientists observed 30 wild greys when they were presented with a Perspex tube of peanuts. 

In order to get them, the squirrels had to learn to use a paw to fit through the holes rather than their face. 

The researchers measured how quickly they learned how to access the nuts.

Some squirrels showed ambidexterity while others strongly favoured a side.

The results, published in the journal Learning and Behaviour, showed those which strongly favoured a particular paw did less well on a learning task. 

The results, published in the journal Learning and Behaviour, showed those which strongly favoured a particular paw did less well on a learning task (stock image)

The results, published in the journal Learning and Behaviour, showed those which strongly favoured a particular paw did less well on a learning task (stock image)

Study author Dr Lisa Leaver, of the University of Exeter, said: ‘They didn’t learn as quickly as the ones who were more ambidextrous.’

She said it was previously thought being strongly lateralised was linked to better mental performance in animals.

Dr Leaver said studies such as this suggest that, in some mammals, there is ‘a weak or even negative relationship.’ 

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