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Posted by on Jun 15, 2016 in Tell Me Why |

Do All Other Creatures Use Tools?

Do All Other Creatures Use Tools?

Man was not the first of the creatures on earth to use a tool. Tools are used by animals to perform behaviors including the acquisition of food and water, grooming, defense, recreation or construction. Originally thought to be a skill only possessed 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 behaviors can be considered as true examples of tool use. A wide range of animals are considered to use tools including mammals, birds, fish, cephalopods and insects.

Primates are well known for using tools for hunting or gathering food and water, cover for rain, and self-defense. There is a burrowing wasp that uses a pebble to pound the sand down over her nest. A finch that lives in the Galapagos Island digs out insects from the crevices in tree trunks with a cactus-spine lever.

The English spotted wood pecker holds open a cleft in a tree branch with a pinecone wedge. The sea otter, while floating on its back in the water, is known to place a stone on its chest, and hammer a shellfish on it, until the shell breaks open. And finally, many monkeys and apes sometimes use sticks and stones as levers.

Parrots may use tools to wedge nuts so that they may crack it open (using a tool) without launching it away. Some birds take advantage of human activity, such as seagulls which drop shellfish 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.

Content for this question contributed by Joan Basserman, resident of Dover, York County, Pennsylvania, USA