Crows Can Make Tools And Even Modify Their Own Design, Study Finds

Posted: Jul 2 2018, 12:03am CDT | by , in Latest Science News


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Crows can Make Tools and Even Modify Their Own Design, Study Finds
Credit: Sarah Jelbert

Researchers have found that crows can recreate tool designs from memory

Crows are highly skilled toolmakers. Researchers originally thought that the ability to create tools is limited to humans but many recent studies have shown that crows can also make remarkable tools from the side branches and use them to catch insects and other prey from vegetation.

Among crow species, New Caledonian crows are famous for their remarkable tool-making skills and the latest study has found a new fascinating fact about these crows. It says that New Caledonian crows can twist twigs into hooks and other tools by using memory. They can even modify or recreate a design with just a mental image of the tool.

Researchers suggest that New Caledonian crows could pass on successful designs to future generations through a process of mental template matching. Then, each individual observes the mental image of a tool and reproduces it in its own way. But researchers are still unsure how much of the crow's tool-making ability is genetically programmed and how much is transmitted through learning and memory. They describe New Caledonian crows approach with two methods of making a paper plane.

"You can follow a list of directions – fold in the middle, then the corners, etc. Or you could have an image in your mind of what you want the airplane to look like at the end, and work to that goal." Co-author Alex Taylor from the University of Auckland said in a statement.

To test their hypothesis, researchers captured eight wild crows and trained them to drop different bits of paper into a vending machine in order to receive food rewards. Once the crows were trained to recognize which sizes of papers were rewarded, researchers replaced the original papers with larger ones. However, they were not given any physical template of the previously rewarded paper sizes.

"The crows were able to recreate tool designs without a reference point—there was no tool they could see when making a 'tool' from the card,” Taylor said. They did that by using a "mental template of the tool design in their mind."

The study marks the first testing of the template matching hypothesis in New Caledonian crows.

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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