Tool use by animals is a phenomenon in which an animal uses any kind of tool in order to achieve a goal such as acquiring food and water, grooming, defense, recreation or construction. Originally thought to be a skill possessed only by humans, some tool use requires a sophisticated level of cognition. There is considerable discussion about the definition of what constitutes a tool and therefore which behaviours can be considered true examples of tool use. A wide range of animals, including mammals, birds, fish, cephalopods, and insects, are considered to use tools.

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  • Tool use by animals is a phenomenon in which an animal uses any kind of tool in order to achieve a goal such as acquiring food and water, grooming, defense, recreation or construction. Originally thought to be a skill possessed only by humans, some tool use requires a sophisticated level of cognition. There is considerable discussion about the definition of what constitutes a tool and therefore which behaviours can be considered true examples of tool use. A wide range of animals, including mammals, birds, fish, cephalopods, and insects, are considered to use tools. Primates are well known for using tools for hunting or gathering food and water, cover for rain, and self-defence. Chimpanzees have been the object of study, most famously by Jane Goodall, since these animals are more-often kept in captivity than other primates and are closely related to humans. Tool-use in other primates are lesser-known as many of them are mainly observed in the wild. Many famous researchers, such as Charles Darwin in his book The Descent of Man, mentioned tool-use in monkeys (such as baboons). Both wild and captive elephants are known to create tools using their trunk and feet, mainly for swatting flies, scratching, plugging water-holes (so the water doesn't evaporate), and reaching food that is out of reach. A group of dolphins in Shark Bay use sponges to protect their beak while foraging. Sea otters will dislodge food from rocks (such as abalone) and break open shellfish. Carnivores (of the order Carnivora) can use tools to trap prey or break open the shells of prey, as well as for scratching. Corvids (crows, ravens and rooks) are well known for their large brains (among birds) and tool use. New Caledonian crows are among the only animals that create their own tools. They mainly manufacture probes out of twigs and wood (and sometimes metal wire) to catch or impale larvae. Tool use in some birds may be best exemplified in nest intricacy. Tailorbirds manufacture 'pouches' to make their nests in. Some birds, such as weaver birds build complex nests. Woodpecker finches insert twigs into trees in order to catch or impale larvae. Parrots may use tools to wedge nuts so that they can crack it open without launching it away. Some birds take advantage of human activity, such as carrion crows in Japan which drop nuts in front of cars to crack them open. Several species of fish use tools to crack open shellfish, extract food that is out of reach, cleaning an area (for nesting), and hunting. Octopuses gather coconut shells and create a shelter. They may also construct a fence using rocks. (en)
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  • Tool use by animals is a phenomenon in which an animal uses any kind of tool in order to achieve a goal such as acquiring food and water, grooming, defense, recreation or construction. Originally thought to be a skill possessed only by humans, some tool use requires a sophisticated level of cognition. There is considerable discussion about the definition of what constitutes a tool and therefore which behaviours can be considered true examples of tool use. A wide range of animals, including mammals, birds, fish, cephalopods, and insects, are considered to use tools. (en)
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  • Tool use by animals (en)
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