Skip to content

Research at St Andrews

Discovery of species-wide tool use in the Hawaiian crow

Research output: Research - peer-reviewArticle

DOI

Open Access permissions

Open

Author(s)

Christian Rutz, Barbara Christina Klump, Lisa Komarczyk, Rosanna Leighton, Joshua Kramer, Saskia Wischnewski, Shoko Sugasawa, Michael Blair Morrissey, Richard James, James St Clair, Richard A. Switzer, Bryce M. Masuda

School/Research organisations

Abstract

Only a handful of bird species are known to use foraging tools in the wild1. Amongst them, the New Caledonian crow (Corvus moneduloides) stands out with its sophisticated tool-making skills2, 3. Despite considerable speculation, the evolutionary origins of this species’ remarkable tool behaviour remain largely unknown, not least because no naturally tool-using congeners have yet been identified that would enable informative comparisons4. Here we show that another tropical corvid, the ‘Alalā (C. hawaiiensis; Hawaiian crow), is a highly dexterous tool user. Although the ‘Alalā became extinct in the wild in the early 2000s, and currently survives only in captivity5, at least two lines of evidence suggest that tool use is part of the species’ natural behavioural repertoire: juveniles develop functional tool use without training, or social input from adults; and proficient tool use is a species-wide capacity. ‘Alalā and New Caledonian crows evolved in similar environments on remote tropical islands, yet are only distantly related6, suggesting that their technical abilities arose convergently. This supports the idea that avian foraging tool use is facilitated by ecological conditions typical of islands, such as reduced competition for embedded prey and low predation risk4, 7. Our discovery creates exciting opportunities for comparative research on multiple tool-using and non-tool-using corvid species. Such work will in turn pave the way for replicated cross-taxonomic comparisons with the primate lineage, enabling valuable insights into the evolutionary origins of tool-using behaviour.
Close

Details

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)403-407
JournalNature
Volume537
Issue number7620
Early online date14 Sep 2016
DOIs
StatePublished - 15 Sep 2016

Discover related content
Find related publications, people, projects and more using interactive charts.

View graph of relations

Related by author

  1. Experimental resource pulses influence social-network dynamics and the potential for information flow in tool-using crows

    St Clair, J., Burns, Z., Bettaney, E., Morrissey, M. B., Otis, B., Ryder, B., Fleischer, R., James, R. & Rutz, C. 3 Nov 2015 In : Nature Communications. 6, 8 p., 7197

    Research output: Research - peer-reviewArticle

  2. Calibrating animal-borne proximity loggers

    Rutz, C., Morrissey, M. B., Burns, Z., Burt, J., Otis, B., St Clair, J. & James, R. Jun 2015 In : Methods in Ecology and Evolution. 6, 6, p. 656-667 12 p.

    Research output: Research - peer-reviewArticle

  3. Fixed-effect variance and the estimation of repeatabilities and heritabilities: issues and solutions

    de Villemereuil, P., Morrissey, M. B., Nakagawa, S. & Schielzeth, H. 15 Feb 2018 In : Journal of Evolutionary Biology. Early View

    Research output: Research - peer-reviewArticle

  4. Vestigial singing behaviour persists after the evolutionary loss of song in crickets

    Schneider, W., Rutz, C., Hedwig, B. & Bailey, N. W. 14 Feb 2018 In : Biology Letters. 14, 2, 4 p., 20170654

    Research output: Research - peer-reviewArticle

  5. Nuthatch uses tool in London park

    Rutz, C. & Deans, S. Feb 2018 In : Ethology. 124, 2, p. 135-138

    Research output: Research - peer-reviewArticle

Related by journal

  1. Maximal Rashba-like spin splitting via kinetic energy-coupled inversion symmetry breaking

    Sunko, V., Rosner, H., Kushwaha, P., Khim, S., Mazzola, F., Bawden, L., Clark, O. J., Riley, J. M., Kasinathan, D., Haverkort, M. W., Kim, T. K., Hoesch, M., Fujii, J., Vobornik, I., Mackenzie, A. P. & King, P. D. 28 Sep 2017 In : Nature. 549, 7673, p. 492-496

    Research output: Research - peer-reviewArticle

  2. Patrick Bateson (1938-2017) Obituary

    Laland, K. N. 24 Aug 2017 In : Nature. 548, 7668, p. 394 1 p.

    Research output: Research - peer-reviewArticle

  3. Onset of the aerobic nitrogen cycle during the Great Oxidation Event

    Zerkle, A. L., Poulton, S. W., Newton, R. J., Mettam, C., Claire, M. W., Bekker, A. & Junium, C. K. 23 Feb 2017 In : Nature. 542, p. 465-467 10 p.

    Research output: Research - peer-reviewLetter

  4. Age, extent and carbon storage of the central Congo Basin peatland complex

    Dargie, G. C., Lewis, S. L., Lawson, I. T., Mitchard, E. T. A., Page, S. E., Bocko, Y. E. & Ifo, S. A. 2 Feb 2017 In : Nature. 542, 7639, p. 86-90 5 p.

    Research output: Research - peer-reviewArticle

  5. Taking the long view

    Boyd, I. L. 20 Dec 2016 In : Nature. 540, 7634, p. 520-521 2 p.

    Research output: ResearchComment/debate

Related by journal

  1. Nature (Journal)

    Dritschel, D. G. (Editor)
    2005 → …

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial workEditor of research journal

  2. Nature (Journal)

    Samuel, I. D. W. (Editor)
    2005 → …

    Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial workEditor of research journal

ID: 245863245