Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Clever cockatoo with skilled craftmanship

Date:
November 6, 2012
Source:
University of Vienna
Summary:
The use and fashioning of objects as tools has rarely been seen in the animal kingdom. Cognitive biologists have for the first time observed this skill in a Goffin's Cockatoo: It makes and uses wooden tools to retrieve toys and food. The results are a piece of the puzzle in the development of intelligent behavior.

Cockatoo Figaro makes wooden tools by itself, in order to get food.
Credit: Alice Auersperg

The use and fashioning of objects as tools has rarely been seen in the animal kingdom. Alice Auersperg and Birgit Szabo, both cognitive biologists at the University of Vienna, have for the first time observed this skill in a Goffin's Cockatoo: It makes and uses wooden tools to retrieve toys and food. The results, presently published in the journal Current Biology, are a piece of the puzzle in the development of intelligent behaviour.

Goffin's cockatoos are a highly playful and curious Indonesian cockatoo species. Therefore, cognitive biologists are now using them as a model species to investigate intelligent behaviour in birds. Together with researchers from the University of Oxford, Alice Auersperg and Birgit Szabo from the Department of Cognitive Biology at the University of Vienna have made a sensational discovery: "We were able to film the cockatoo 'Figaro' using its powerful beak to cut long splinters out of wooden beams or breaking off and modifying a side arm of a branch, to rake in a nut that was out of its direct reach," explains Alice Auersperg, who led the study.

The right tool for every nut

For the researchers it came as a surprise that Figaro used a tool at all, and more so, that the he made it by himself. The most important observation was that the cockatoo, after having managed to fashion his first tool, knew what to do without hesitation in further experiments. "Figaro made a new tool for every nut we placed there and each time the bird was successful in obtaining it," reports the cognitive biologist. Goffin's cockatoos are highly explorative known to be good problem solvers in technical areas, and large-brained. However, they are unlikely to be habitual tool users in the wild. "Until now Figaro is the only one in his species in which we could observe this behaviour so far," Birgit Szabo says. His feat demonstrates that tool craftsmanship can emerge from non-specialized intelligence.

Evolution of intelligence

"It is still difficult to identify cognitive operations. Figaro, and his predecessor Betty, may help us unlock many unknowns in the evolution of intelligence," Alex Kacelnik, professor at the University of Oxford, explains. He is one of the authors of the study and was also involved in another study about the famous New Caledonian crow Betty: She surprised experts by fashioning hooks out of wire, to fish food out of a pipe. Even though this species uses tools in the wild, there was no precedent of this form of tool making, and the case is still considered to be a striking example of individual creativity and innovation.

"For a long time such talents have only been attributed to our closest relatives, the great apes. Since then, however, tool use has been reported in capuchin monkeys, some birds and even some invertebrates," Alice Auersperg explains. While the tool-using club is admitting new members, scientists are still puzzling over the roles of intelligence, culture and ecology in promoting and supporting such competences.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Vienna. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Alice M.I. Auersperg, Birgit Szabo, Auguste M.P. von Bayern, Alex Kacelnik. Spontaneous innovation in tool manufacture and use in a Goffin’s cockatoo. Current Biology, 2012; 22 (21): R903 DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2012.09.002

Cite This Page:

University of Vienna. "Clever cockatoo with skilled craftmanship." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 November 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121106102046.htm>.
University of Vienna. (2012, November 6). Clever cockatoo with skilled craftmanship. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121106102046.htm
University of Vienna. "Clever cockatoo with skilled craftmanship." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121106102046.htm (accessed October 21, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Cadaver Dogs Aid Search for More Victims of Suspected Indiana Serial Killer

Cadaver Dogs Aid Search for More Victims of Suspected Indiana Serial Killer

Reuters - US Online Video (Oct. 21, 2014) Police in Gary, Indiana are using cadaver dogs to search for more victims after a suspected serial killer confessed to killing at least seven women. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
White Lion Cubs Unveiled to the Public

White Lion Cubs Unveiled to the Public

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Oct. 21, 2014) Visitors to Belgrade zoo meet a pair of three-week-old lion cubs for the first time. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
'Cadaver Dog' Sniffs out Human Remains

'Cadaver Dog' Sniffs out Human Remains

AP (Oct. 21, 2014) Where's a body buried? Buster's nose can often tell you. He's a cadaver dog, specially trained to find human remains and increasingly being used by law enforcement and accepted in courts. These dogs are helping solve even decades-old mysteries. (Oct. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

White Lion Cubs Born in Belgrade Zoo

AFP (Oct. 20, 2014) Two white lion cubs, an extremely rare subspecies of the African lion, were recently born at Belgrade Zoo. They are being bottle fed by zoo keepers after they were rejected by their mother after birth. Duration: 00:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

More Coverage


Cockatoo 'can Make Its Own Tools'

Nov. 5, 2012 A cockatoo from a species not known to use tools in the wild has been observed spontaneously making and using tools for reaching food and other ... read more

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins