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Does Functional Lateralization in Birds Have any Implications for Their Welfare?

School of Science and Technology, University of New England, Armidale, NSW 2351, Australia
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Symmetry 2019, 11(8), 1043; https://doi.org/10.3390/sym11081043
Received: 29 July 2019 / Revised: 5 August 2019 / Accepted: 9 August 2019 / Published: 13 August 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Brain Functional Lateralization in Animals)
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Abstract

We know a good deal about brain lateralization in birds and a good deal about animal welfare, but relatively little about whether there is a noteworthy relationship between avian welfare and brain lateralization. In birds, the left hemisphere is specialised to categorise stimuli and to discriminate preferred categories from distracting stimuli (e.g., food from an array of inedible objects), whereas the right hemisphere responds to small differences between stimuli, controls social behaviour, detects predators and controls attack, fear and escape responses. In this paper, we concentrate on visual lateralization and the effect of light exposure of the avian embryo on the development of lateralization, and we consider its role in the welfare of birds after hatching. Findings suggest that light-exposure during incubation has a general positive effect on post-hatching behaviour, likely because it facilitates control of behaviour by the left hemisphere, which can suppress fear and other distress behaviour controlled by the right hemisphere. In this context, particular attention needs to be paid to the influence of corticosterone, a stress hormone, on lateralization. Welfare of animals in captivity, as is well known, has two cornerstones: enrichment and reduction of stress. What is less well-known is the link between the influence of experience on brain lateralization and its consequent positive or negative outcomes on behaviour. We conclude that the welfare of birds may be diminished by failure to expose the developing embryos to light but we also recognise that more research on the association between lateralization and welfare is needed.
Keywords: lateralization; birds; visual behaviour; light exposure; development; corticosterone; welfare lateralization; birds; visual behaviour; light exposure; development; corticosterone; welfare
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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Rogers, L.J.; Kaplan, G. Does Functional Lateralization in Birds Have any Implications for Their Welfare? Symmetry 2019, 11, 1043.

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