Tuesday, January 21, 2020

To Scratch an Itch

Environmental & Science Education
Biological Evolution
Edward Hessler

Tool use behavior has been documented in the wild in primates and elephants. 

In a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Annette Fayet, Erpur Hansen and Dora Biro "describe a previously unknown tool-use behavior for wild birds. .... We observed 2 Atlantic puffins at their breeding colonies, one in Wales and the other in Iceland (the latter captured on camera), spontaneously using a small wooden stick to scratch their bodies. The importance of these observations is 3-fold. First, while to date only a single form of body-care-related tool use has been recorded in wild birds (anting), our finding shows that the wild avian tool-use repertoire is wider than previously thought and extends to contexts other than food extraction. Second, we expand the taxonomic breadth of tool use to include another group of birds, seabirds, and a different suborder (Lari). Third, our independent observations span a distance of more than 1,700 km (~1056 miles), suggesting that occasional tool use may be widespread in this group, and that seabirds’ physical cognition may have been underestimated. (bold and milage added)

The paper includes 3 films (scroll down), one of them showing tool-use behavior and the remaining two showing nest construction behaviors.

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