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Animals can be left-handed or right-handed just like humans, including the largest ones that have ever lived. But they can also be ambidextrous.
Scientists saw this dynamic in action while they were watching several dozen blue whales in the Pacific Ocean do barrel rolls to get food. Although there were animals that showed a preference for using their right side — the whale equivalent of right-handedness that we see in people — even those specific whales did left-handed barrel rolls on this one food-related behavior, according to a study in the journal Current Biology.
“When blue whales rise from the depths to approach a tasty krill patch near the surface, they perform 360-degree barrel rolls at a steep angle and nearly always roll to the left,” according to an explanation from Oregon State University.
Other types of movements in which the blue whales showed a preference for one side or the other included side rolls, in which they turn 90 degrees onto their sides to get at krill.
“We found many of them exclusively rolled to their right, fewer rolled just to their left, and the rest exhibited a combination,” researcher Ari Friedlaender said in the university statement.