Innovative composite tool use by Goffin’s cockatoos (Cacatua goffiniana)

Antonio J. Osuna-Mascaró, Roger Mundry, Sabbine Tebbich, Sarah Beck, Alice M.I. Auersperg

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Composite tool use (using more than one tool simultaneously to achieve an end) has played a significant role in the development of human technology. Typically, it depends on a number of specific and often complex spatial relations and there are thus very few reported cases in non-human animals (e.g., specific nut-cracking techniques in chimpanzees and capuchin monkeys). The innovative strategies underlying the innovation and spread of tool manufacture and associative tool use (using > 1 tools) across tool using animals is an important milestone towards a better understanding of the evolution of human technology. We tested Goffin’s cockatoos on a composite tool problem, the ‘Golf Club Task’, that requires the use of two objects in combination (one used to control the free movement of a second) to get a reward. We demonstrate that these parrots can innovate composite tool use by actively controlling the position of the end effector and movement of both objects involved in a goal directed manner. The consistent use of different techniques by different subjects highlights the innovative nature of the individual solutions. To test whether the solution could be socially transmitted, we conducted a second study, which provided only tentative evidence for emulative learning. To our knowledge, this indicates that the cognitive preconditions for composite tool use have also evolved outside the primate lineage.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1510
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 27 Jan 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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