Feeds

Cockatoo grabs his tool, manages to get hold of boffins' nuts

Birdy genius stuns scientists with twiggy feats

The next step in data security

A twig may not be your idea of a great tool, but a cockatoo has worked out how to use it to move a cashew nut, getting scientists from the University of Oxford, Vienna and the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Germany fairly excited.

The complex tool innovation displayed by a Goffin's cockatoo (Cacatua goffiniana) called Figaro emerged when one of Figaro's favourite pebbles fell outside his cage.

Dr Alice Auersperg of the University of Vienna, who led the study, reported what Figaro did next:

After some unsuccessful attempts to reach it with his claw, he fetched a small stick and started fishing for his toy.

Figaro got even more inventive when they swapped the stone for a cashew nut:

To investigate this further we later placed a nut where the pebble had been and started to film. To our astonishment he did not go on searching for a stick but started biting a large splinter out of the aviary beam. He cut it when it was just the appropriate size and shape to serve as a raking tool to obtain the nut.

Figaro the Cockatoo and his sticks, credit Current Biology, Alice M.I. Auersperg, Birgit Szabo, Auguste M.P. von Bayern, and Alex Kacelnik

Figaro and his sticks. Credit: Current Biology

Empowered with his twigs and splinters, Figaro was able to collect the nut every time.

Tests with other cockatoos in the same situation proved that Figaro was an exceptionally gifted in his rake-making: a cockatoo called Pippin did not try to use tools, but a third, Heidi, did attempt to use a bamboo stick, but less successfully.

Certain species of birds are known for using tools but cockatoos are not among them. It is "exceedingly rare" for non-tool using species to start using tools, the paper's abstract states, but birds with well- developed spatial intelligence may be able to innovate from scratch.

The findings of the study have implications for our understanding of tool use in animals, and cites the origins of tool usage in general intelligence rather than learned behaviours coming from evolutionarily specific problems.

Professor Alex Kacelnik of Oxford University, another author of the study, said: "Figaro shows us that, even when they are not habitual tool-users, members of a species that are curious, good problem-solvers, and large-brained, can sculpt tools out of a shapeless source material to fulfil a novel need." ®

Spontaneous innovation in tool manufacture and use in a Goffin’s cockatoo was published in the November issue of Current Biology

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
SCREW YOU, Russia! NASA lobs $6.8bn at Boeing AND SpaceX to run space station taxis
Musk charging nearly half as much as Boeing for crew trips
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Thought that last dinosaur was BIG? This one's bloody ENORMOUS
Weighed several adult elephants, contend boffins
Edge Research Lab to tackle chilly LOHAN's final test flight
Our US allies to probe potential Vulture 2 servo freeze
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
India's MOM Mars mission makes final course correction
Mangalyaan probe will feel the burn of orbital insertion on September 24th
Cracked it - Vulture 2 power podule fires servos for 4 HOURS
Pixhawk avionics juice issue sorted, onwards to Spaceport America
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.