Lateralisation in forelimb use at the population and/or individual level has been found in a wide variety of vertebrate species. However, some large taxa have not yet been investigated and that limits a proper evolutionary interpretation of forelimb preferences. Among mammals lateralised use of the forelimbs has been shown for both placentals and marsupials, but nothing is known about behavioural lateralisation in monotremes. Here we examined lateral preferences in forelimb use in four long-beaked echidnas (male and female Zaglossus bruijni, and male and female Z. bartoni) in captivity. Three individuals showed significant forelimb preferences in unimanual behaviours associated with feeding. When stepping on an eminence with one forelimb first, the lateralisation at the individual level was found only in males of both species. During male–female interactions, the male Z. bartoni significantly preferred to put one of the forelimbs on the female’s back. In both males, the direction of preferences was consistent across different types of behaviour. Our results confirm that manual lateralisation, at least at the individual level, is widespread among mammals. Further research is needed to investigate whether the monotremes display population-level lateralisation in forelimb use.
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Vol. 63 • No. 5