Discovery of species-wide tool use in the Hawaiian crow

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

32 Citations (Scopus)
120 Downloads (Pure)

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.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)403-407
Number of pages5
JournalNature
Volume537
Early online date14 Sep 2016
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sep 2016

Cite this

Rutz, C., Klump, B., Komarczyk, L., Leighton, R., Kramer, J., Wischnewski, S., ... Masuda, B. (2016). Discovery of species-wide tool use in the Hawaiian crow. Nature, 537, 403-407. https://doi.org/10.1038/nature19103

Discovery of species-wide tool use in the Hawaiian crow. / Rutz, Christian; Klump, Barbara; Komarczyk, Lisa; Leighton, Rosanna; Kramer, Joshua; Wischnewski, Saskia; Sugasawa, Shoko; Morrissey, Michael; James, Richard; St Clair, James; Switzer, Richard; Masuda, Bryce.

In: Nature, Vol. 537, 15.09.2016, p. 403-407.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Rutz, C, Klump, B, Komarczyk, L, Leighton, R, Kramer, J, Wischnewski, S, Sugasawa, S, Morrissey, M, James, R, St Clair, J, Switzer, R & Masuda, B 2016, 'Discovery of species-wide tool use in the Hawaiian crow', Nature, vol. 537, pp. 403-407. https://doi.org/10.1038/nature19103
Rutz C, Klump B, Komarczyk L, Leighton R, Kramer J, Wischnewski S et al. Discovery of species-wide tool use in the Hawaiian crow. Nature. 2016 Sep 15;537:403-407. https://doi.org/10.1038/nature19103
Rutz, Christian ; Klump, Barbara ; Komarczyk, Lisa ; Leighton, Rosanna ; Kramer, Joshua ; Wischnewski, Saskia ; Sugasawa, Shoko ; Morrissey, Michael ; James, Richard ; St Clair, James ; Switzer, Richard ; Masuda, Bryce. / Discovery of species-wide tool use in the Hawaiian crow. In: Nature. 2016 ; Vol. 537. pp. 403-407.
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