Look, no hands

New Caledonian crows can use and make tools

source: Stephanie Pain
New Scientist August 17 2002
starts p44, 4 pages long

A species of crow, called Corvus moneduloides, from New Caledonia in the South Pacific, is able to use and make tools to obtain food in ways that show greater understanding of function and form than chimps. This speciesof crow needs to use tools to obtain food. They use sticks to flush out prey, and may make probes themselves from large leaves, bamboo stems, and other materials. They may also use sticks to fish for grubs - the grubs grab the end of the stick. Crows also make and use hooks, from different materials. The hooks are made with the same design. The birds may learn from each other how to make these hooks. One crow, called Betty, was able to fasjion hooks from novel materials.

One characteristic of these crows is laterality, thought to help the brain work more efficiently. Humans are strongly right-handed, and New Caledonian crows also have this characteristic. Humans and crows are also both social animals, and opportunists as well as generalists when it comes to food. Crows and humans may also have had to make behavioural changes to offset physical shortcomings.