On the evolutionary and ontogenetic origins of tool-oriented behaviour in New Caledonian crows (Corvus moneduloides)

Ben Kenward, Christian Schloegl, Christian Rutz, Alexander A. S. Weir, Thomas Bugnyar, Alex Kacelnik

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


New Caledonian crows (Corvus moneduloides) are prolific tool users in captivity and in the wild, and have an inherited predisposition to express tool-oriented behaviours. To further understand the evolution and development of tool use, we compared the development of object manipulation in New Caledonian crows and common ravens (Corvus corax), which do not routinely use tools. We found striking qualitative similarities in the ontogeny of tool-oriented behaviour in New Caledonian crows and food-caching behaviour in ravens. Given that the common ancestor of New Caledonian crows and ravens was almost certainly a caching species, we therefore propose that the basic action patterns for tool use in New Caledonian crows may have their evolutionary origins in caching behaviour. Noncombinatorial object manipulations had similar frequencies in the two species. However, frequencies of object combinations that are precursors to functional behaviour increased in New Caledonian crows and decreased in ravens throughout the study period, ending 6 weeks post-fledging. These quantitative observations are consistent with the hypothesis that New Caledonian crows develop tool-oriented behaviour because of an increased motivation to perform object combinations that facilitate the necessary learning. (c) 2011 The Linnean Society of London, Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, 2011, 102, 870-877.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)870-877
Number of pages8
JournalBiological Journal of the Linnean Society
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2011


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