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Extreme binocular vision and a straight bill facilitate tool use in New Caledonian crows

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Author(s)

Jolyon Troscianko, Auguste von Bayern, Jackie Chappell, Christian Rutz, Graham Martin

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Abstract

Humans are expert tool users, who manipulate objects with dextrous hands and precise visual control. Surprisingly, morphological predispositions, or adaptations, for tool use have rarely been examined in non-human animals. New Caledonian crows Corvus moneduloides use their bills to craft complex tools from sticks, leaves and other materials, before inserting them into deadwood or vegetation to extract prey. Here we show that tool use in these birds is facilitated by an unusual visual-field topography and bill shape. Their visual field has substantially greater binocular overlap than that of any other bird species investigated to date, including six non-tool-using corvids. Furthermore, their unusually straight bill enables a stable grip on tools, and raises the tool tip into their visual field’s binocular sector. These features enable a degree of tool control that would be impossible in other corvids, despite their comparable cognitive abilities. To our knowledge, this is the first evidence for tool-use-related morphological features outside the hominin lineage.

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Original languageEnglish
Article number1110
JournalNature Communications
Volume3
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 9 Oct 2012

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