Is primate tool use special? Chimpanzee and new caledonian crow compared

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The chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes) is well-known in both nature and captivity as an impressive maker and user of tools, but recently the New Caledonian crow (Corvus moneduloides) has been championed as being equivalent or superior to the ape in elementary technology. I systematically compare the two taxa, going beyond simple presence/absence scoring of tool-using and -making types, on four more precise aspects of material culture: (i) types of associative technology (tools used in combination); (ii) modes of tool making; (iii) modes of tool use; and (iv) functions of tool use. I emphasize tool use in nature, when performance is habitual or customary, rather than in anecdotal or idiosyncratic. On all four measures, the ape shows more variety than does the corvid, especially in modes and functions that go beyond extractive foraging. However, more sustained field research is required on the crows before this contrast is conclusive.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1630
Publication statusPublished - 13 Nov 2013


  • Corvidae
  • Elementary technology
  • Extractive foraging
  • Hominoidea
  • Material culture


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