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

dow by pulling a hook-shaped lever. We know that New Caledonian crows use their tools to haptically explore scary looking objects from a safe distance; they did not use pulling and tearing actions (which require a longer period of body contact than simple pecking actions with the beak or the tool) towards such objects, even if a food reward is involved." After Uek succeeded to open the window, she would not stick her head through the entrance to directly reach for the food like the kea did but instead used the stick to poke it off its platform," explains Alice Auersperg.

Aiming a tool into a desired direction

In a follow-up study of the same researchers from the University of Vienna which was published in Biology Letters, three further kea learned to insert a stick tool through a hole inside a vertical wall and to poke an out-of-reach food reward behind that wall off its platform after watching some demonstration trials by Kermit. Furthermore they were able to aim the functional tool end at the positive option of two (a baited versus an unbaited box). This is remarkable since kea, which do not use stick-like material during nest construction but breed in simple burrows instead, do not seem to have an ecological predisposition to handle elongated objects.

A new approach to cognitive science

The researchers hope to gain more insight into the evolution of intelligence from their results. Instead of just investigating which problems an animal is capable of mastering, the focus of cognitive science should additionally be on the mechanisms underlying these accomplishments. The Department of Cognitive Biology at the University of Vienna, an important segment of the global scientific community, consists of the research teams of three professors Ludwig Huber, Tecumse Fitch and Thomas Bugnyar. They investigate the intelligence and communication of various birds and mammals. In November 2010, a new research station Ha
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Contact: Ludwig Huber
ludwig.huber@univie.ac.at
University of Vienna
Source:Eurekalert  

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