Lateralized Agonistic Responses and Hindlimb Use in Toads

Anim Behav. 1998 Oct;56(4):875-881. doi: 10.1006/anbe.1998.0877.


The recent discovery of forepaw preferences (handedness) in toad species has provided some insight into the evolution of brain lateralization. We tested the prediction that, as in higher vertebrates, visual lateralization and other motor preferences (footedness) also exists in toad species. During feeding periods, South American cane toads, Bufo marinus, showed a population bias to strike with the tongue at other toads occupying their left visual field. This is the first demonstration of lateralized visual behaviour in an amphibian species. Tongue striking at an individual's eyes or head may sometimes delay its approach to prey already seen by the attacker, or may dislodge prey from its mouth. In addition, we report hindlimb preferences (footedness) for contact righting in three species of toad (B. marinus, the European green toad, B. viridis, and the European common toad, B. bufo). After being fully overturned on to their back on a horizontal surface, toads initiated and completed righting using the hindlimbs and with only perfunctory use of the forepaws. Together, the findings of visual lateralization and footedness demonstrate that in toads, as in higher vertebrates, behavioural lateralization is not restricted to handedness. The hypothesis that lateralized brain functions in birds and mammals might have arisen from a common lateralized ancestor is therefore supported. Copyright 1998 The Association for the Study of Animal Behaviour.