It makes sense that the big brains of dolphins, elephants, and crows would figure out tools — but the comparatively tiny and alien mind of the ant is karmnik solina surprisingly adept at working with them. Funnel ants frequently carry tools to soak up and transport liquids and substances like honey — and a study by researchers demonstrates that they consciously choose objects like sponges that are best suited for the task. But in an act of more sophisticated tool use, black fire ants used sand to dilute otherwise deadly sugar water so that they could safely extract the sugar and transport it safely. Unlike many of the creatures on this list, it’s believed that this is almost solely the result of genetic mutations rather than higher cognition on the part of the ant. Dolphins are notorious for playing with objects they find floating in the water, but play is essentially just a way of learning how to hunt, forage and survive more efficiently out in the wild.
- For example, since 2006, the European Union has banned the use of antibiotics for growth promotion.
- Octopi, orangutans, macaques, and other animals occasionally use tools as well.
- Several other birds may use spines or forked sticks to anchor a carcass while they flay it with the bill.
- Some people may be allergic to the animals that commonly play a role in therapy.
- American crows are another of several species of birds that possess prey dropping behavior.
Eight of 13 captive Asian elephants, maintained under a naturalistic environment, modified branches and switched with the altered branch, indicating this species is capable of the more rare behaviour of tool manufacture. There were different styles of modification of the branches, the most common of which was holding the main stem with the front foot and pulling off a side branch or distal end with the trunk. Elephants have been observed digging holes to drink water, then ripping bark from a tree, chewing it into the shape of a ball thereby manufacturing a “plug” to fill in the hole, and covering it with sand to avoid evaporation. Every animal navigates their material environment through the lens of their biological predispositions and exaptations. With the example of primates using tools, it is necessary to consider the biological setting in which each primate species interacts with their tools. Every primate innately possesses a zone of solutions to ecological problems that can develop in interaction with a given environment, known as their zone of latent solutions.
Many other species of animals, both avian and non-avian, play with objects in a similar manner. Primates are well known for using tools for hunting or gathering food and water, cover for rain, and self-defense. Chimpanzees have often been the object of study in regard to their usage of tools, most famously by Jane Goodall, since these animals are frequently kept in captivity and are closely related to humans. Some novel tool-use by primates may arise in a localized or isolated manner within certain unique primate cultures, being transmitted and practiced among socially connected primates through cultural learning.
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For example, every chimpanzee has the capacity to learn how to use tools such as nut cracking and poking sticks to capture and consume ants. These behaviors are likely in the chimpanzees’ ZLS, and therefore belong to every chimpanzee’s potential biological toolkit. Yet, many may require a social “push”, i.e. a trigger, before they themselves develop this behaviour . However, chimpanzees, and every other great ape, seem to be unable to learn tool use behavior outside of their ZLS – i.e. in cases where a behaviour would not just be triggered, but copied. For example, no species of great ape apart from humans are able to spontaneously produce loop-like technology under any condition, even with human teaching.
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Investigating how such behavior developed in this diverse mix promises to shed light on how tool use might have originated in humanity. Bottlenose dolphins in Shark Bay, Australia, carries marine sponges in their beaks to stir ocean-bottom sand and uncover prey, spending more time hunting with tools than any animal besides humans. Like other great apes, these primates can learn how to use sign language and symbols.
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Charles Q. Choi is a contributing writer for Live Science and Space.com. He covers all things human origins and astronomy as well as physics, animals and general science topics. Charles has a Master of Arts degree from the University of Missouri-Columbia, School of Journalism and a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of South Florida. Charles has visited every continent on Earth, drinking rancid yak butter tea in Lhasa, snorkeling with sea lions in the Galapagos and even climbing an iceberg in Antarctica. Kanzi, who now lives at a research center in Des Moines, Iowa, can cook his own food and has even outperformed a human toddler during a study of cognitive ability when he was only eight years old. The bonobo is a close cousin to the common chimpanzee, another famously intelligent animal.
They attach a sponge to their noses so they can forage on the seafloor without scraping or cutting their flesh. Interestingly enough, it seems to be a habit that’s passed down from generation to generation — although it’s behavior primarily exhibited by females. Dolphins in captivity have been seen throwing objects to bait people or prey and even using tiles to scrape edible algae off of surfaces. Watching chimps use those twigs opened up the possibility to researchers that they could be using other tools, and so could other animals. In a Congo study on chimps that were gathering army ants, researchers found chimps with toolkits that had 3 to 4 tools, including ones for breaking into the nests and ones for gathering the insects.
Orangutans produce an alarm call known as a “kiss squeak” when they encounter a predator like a snake. Sometimes, orangutans will strip leaves from a branch and hold them in front of their mouth when making the sound. It has been found this lowers the maximum frequency of the sound i.e. makes it deeper, and in addition, smaller orangutans are more likely to use the leaves. It has been suggested they use the leaves to make themselves sound bigger than they really are, the first documented case of an animal using a tool to manipulate sound. Sumatran orangutans use sticks to acquire seeds from a particular fruit. When the fruit of the Neesia tree ripens, its hard, ridged husk softens until it falls open.
There are even reports of orangutans using sticks to measure the depth of water, which would imply a cognitive ability far in advance of any other animal. Crows and ravens are highly intelligent birds that are known to use tools both in the wild and in captivity. Both ravens and crows will most commonly use sticks as tools to pull bugs and other food items out of hard-to-reach places. They will also drop rocks into bowls or cups to raise the water level enough for them to reach floating food items. Chimpanzees fashion twigs for termite fishing, use stone and wooden tools to crack open nuts, and sharpen spears out of sticks to hunt. Meanwhile, gorillas use walking poles to measure water depth, orangutans can pick a lock with a paperclip, and capuchins make stone knives by banging flint against the floor until the pieces are sharp.