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Examining the mechanisms underlying the acquisition of animal tool behaviour

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Author(s)

Elisa Bandini, Alba Motes-Rodrigo, Matthew Paul Steele, Christian Rutz, Claudio Tennie

School/Research organisations

Abstract

Despite major advances in the study of animal tool behaviour, researchers continue to debate how exactly certain behaviours are acquired. While specific mechanisms, such as genetic predispositions or action copying, are sometimes suspected to play a major role in behavioural acquisition, controlled experiments are required to provide conclusive evidence. In this opinion piece, we refer to classic ethological methodologies to emphasize the need for studying the relative contributions of different factors to the emergence of specific tool behaviours. We describe a methodology, consisting of a carefully staged series of baseline and social-learning conditions, that enables us to tease apart the roles of different mechanisms in the development of behavioural repertoires. Experiments employing our proposed methodology will not only advance our understanding of animal learning and culture, but as a result, will also help inform hypotheses about human cognitive, cultural and technological evolution. More generally, our conceptual framework is suitable for guiding the detailed investigation of other seemingly complex animal behaviours.
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Original languageEnglish
Article number20200122
Number of pages6
JournalBiology Letters
Volume16
Issue number6
Early online date3 Jun 2020
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 24 Jun 2020

    Research areas

  • Animal tool behaviour, Learning mechanism, Baseline experiment, Social learning, Tool use, Tool manufacture

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