This volume grew out of the 2nd International Symposium on Behavioral and Morphological Asymmetries, which took place in St. Petersburg (Russia) in September 2004 at the St. Petersburg State University under the patronage of the St. Petersburg Society of Naturalists. The Symposium is the descendant of a satellite event with a similar name of the 4th World Congress of Herpetology (December, 2001, Bentota, Sri Lanka). While the 1st Symposium (see special issue number 3 for 2002 of the journal, Laterality) covered only asymmetries observed in amphibians and reptiles, the second one had a broader scope. Three years passed since the Sri Lanka meeting and there was sustained and increasing interest in vertebrate lateralization in the scientific community, especially in lower vertebrates, or at least, in nonmammalian models. This supported not only by the collection of talks at the Symposium, but also by current publications in international periodicals. Talks here were substantially biased towards the lower vertebrates and birds, while reptiles remained to be studied in more detail.
Two important rationales were considered for the Symposium and the volume, which you have in hand. The first was to bring together topics and specialists representing different branches of the relatively broad field of research of animal asymmetries. The contributions focused on three main subjects: (1) development of structural and functional asymmetries constituted; (2) evolution and adaptation; and (3) function. Aiming for a broader range of topics, the Symposium may still show the current perspective. The increasing number of contributors (twice as many as at the Sri Lanka meeting) give at least a hope that it was indeed so. We, however, further invited authors, who although not present at the meeting itself, nevertheless could contribute to the book to finalize its shape. The other purpose of this volume is to expose Western scientists to Eastern thoughts regarding laterality, and vice versa. We aimed also to help Russian scientists with limited resources and access to the international journals the chance to publish in the Western literature. It seemed to us that this is a fine and perfectly acceptable approach, which on the other hand explains some of the unevenness in the quality and the style of the different manuscripts.
Taken together, these fourteen Chapters, we believe, display a variety of the most interesting and intriguing topics within the broad field of animal lateralization, showing the perspectives of its developments. Far from complete, the volume nevertheless is a state-of-the-art book, which complements a bulk of recent literature on genetics and developmental studies of asymmetries of the heart and other inner organs, interhemispheric specialization in human subjects, and fluctuating morphological asymmetry in animals.