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Clever tool use in parrots and crows
Date:6/10/2011

f the two species. The researchers from the University of Vienna cooperated with their colleagues from the Department for Zoology of the University of Oxford. They confronted six kea and five New Caledonian crows with a Multi Access Box in a transparent plexiglas cube. Each side wall represented another possible solution to achieve the same food reward which was presented on a platform in the center of the box. Alice Auersperg, who is corresponding author to this publication and who conducted the study, explains: "The animals could choose between pulling a string which was tied around the reward, pulling a hook-shaped lever to open a window, inserting a marble (compact tool) into a curved ball-path leading towards the reward or inserting a rod-shaped stick-tool into an opening and maneuver it over a gap towards the food in order to push the reward off its platform."

Gyula Gajdon, who is a co-author from the Department of Cognitive Biology in Vienna, adds: "The animals could choose which solution they wanted to employ first. Once they had established a solution and had used it a certain number of times we blocked the entrance, forcing them to switch to another. This way we could observe not only the differences in the order of solutions that the animals established but also how quickly they were able to switch."

Species champions "Kermit" und "Uek"

Just one animal of each species accomplished all four solutions. The most difficult solution for the kea was the use of a stick-like object as a tool. This is not surprising since the kea is not a natural tool user in the wild. Additionally, maneuvering an elongated tool inside a curved beak is a highly complex motor task. "It is therefore all the more impressive that Kermit succeeded to overcome this handicap. The strategy he used gives the strong impression that he acted in a goal directed matter," states Ludwig Huber.

The greatest challenge for the crow was to open a win
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Contact: Ludwig Huber
ludwig.huber@univie.ac.at
University of Vienna
Source:Eurekalert  

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