NCBI ROFL: Two Cute: Research that would make grad school snugglier

By ncbi rofl | October 12, 2009 3:00 pm

“Right-trunkers” and “left-trunkers”: side preferences of trunk movements in elephants

“In this article, the side preferences of feeding-related trunk movements of free-ranging Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) were investigated for the first time. It is hypothesized that a functional asymmetry of the trunk is necessary to perform skillful feeding movements more efficiently. This might be connected with a corresponding hemispheric specialization. Video recordings of 41 wild elephants provided frequencies and durations of the following trunk-movement categories: object contact, retrieval, and reaching. In each category, individual side preferences were found. The strength of side preferences varied between the trunk-movement categories and the sexes. Mean durations of retrieval and reaching correlated negatively with the strength of side biases. Comparing the side preferences in the unpaired trunk with analogous phenomena in other unpaired grasping organs and in primate handedness. the authors discuss possible explanations for the evolution of asymmetries in unpaired grasping organs.”


Nipple preference and contests in suckling kittens of the domestic cat are unrelated to presumed nipple quality.

“We studied the development of suckling behavior and weight gain in 11 litters (52 kittens) of free-ranging domestic cats until postnatal day 28 just before the start of weaning. In six of these litters, we also recorded milk intake and contests for access to nipples. Already within 12 hr of birth kittens showed a preference for posterior nipples, and by postnatal day 3 each had developed a preference for particular nipples. In fact, 86% of kittens used one particular nipple most often, and even when the mother changed the side she lay on to nurse. Contests for access to nipples occurred throughout the study period at an average rate of one to two contests per kitten per hour of nursing. Contrary to suggestions in the literature that kittens compete for more productive nipples, we found no relation between kittens’ use of particular nipples and their weight gain, milk intake, or involvement in contests during suckling. We suggest that kittens’ preference for posterior nipples as well as their establishment of an individual “teat order” might function to optimize the number of nipples remaining productive across lactation, and to reduce energetically costly scrambles and potentially injurious contests among littermates.”

  • Skye

    Am I the only one who can't help but giggle at "possible explanations for the evolution of asymmetries in unpaired grasping organs."?

  • RECMSOJ

    Nope! You’re not alone. Episodic amusement continues as I keep working on my comprehensive list of “unpaired grasping organs”, which may be somewhat dependent upon the definition used for “grasping”.

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About ncbi rofl

NCBI ROFL is the brainchild of two Molecular and Cell Biology graduate students at UC Berkeley and features real research articles from the PubMed database (which is housed by the National Center for Biotechnology information, aka NCBI) that they find amusing (ROFL is a commonly-used internet acronym for "rolling on the floor, laughing"). Follow us on twitter: @ncbirofl

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