Saturday, March 25, 2006

Left-oriented Snails Don't Get Eaten

Brian
Darryl Strawberry: You're pinch-hitting for me?

Mr. Burns: Yes, you see you're a left-hander and so is the pitcher. If I send up a right-handed batter it's called playing the percentages. It's what smart managers do to win ballgames.

Darryl Strawberry: But I hit nine home runs today.

Mr. Burns: You should be very proud of yourself. Sit down.

Even Mr. Burns knows that left-handed pitchers are better against lefty batters, and righties against righties. What Yale University researchers found is that the same is true in the animal kingdom: right-handed crabs are much better at eating snails with right-oriented shells, and fail when encountering sinister snails*:
Scientists from the US examined whelks and cone shells preyed on by the crab Calappa flammea.

They found the crab is unable to open left-handed shells because it only has a tool for peeling them on its right claw; so it discards them.

"The crabs have a special tool on their claw, a tooth that's used like a can-opener," said Gregory Dietl from Yale University.

"So, if you imagine trying to use a right-handed can-opener with your left hand - it's very hard to do," he told the BBC News website.
Link. Left-handed snails may have an evolutionary advantage, but lefties still have it rough among the human population. While the motor instructions coming from the right side of their brain don't make them any more artistic than their dextrous counterparts, they might have an advantage in battle:
While a righty fought with a sword in his right hand and a shield in his left, a left-handed swordsman could make strong surprise attack on the opponent's unprotected right side. Recall Rocky Balboa's last-minute switch to his southpaw.
Link. But unlike the shells of snails, people can sometimes have it both ways:
Most scientists agree that handedness exists on a continuum. The idea helps explain why some people bowl with their left but hold a spoon in their right. Truly ambidextrous people, who have indifferent preference for either hand, are extremely rare.
I'd give my right arm to be ambidextrous.

* "Sinister Snails" would make a great band name.
Indexed by tags science, nature, biology, zoology, crabs, snails, left-handed, right-handed, Calappa flammea, Darryl Strawberry, Mr. Burns, pitchers, batters, ambidextrous, Rocky Balboa.
Image credits:
Reflections of Nature, courtesy BBC News, borrowed for news-reporting and comment purposes.

1 Comments:

Blogger Samantha said...

I am ambidextrous. It definitely has advantages--but disadvantages, as well. It is linked to schizophrnia: http://www.mentalhealthcare.org.uk/research/expanded/index.php?id=14

Plus, there is a true deficit when it comes to knowing right from left--they feel exactly the same.

1:39 PM  

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