Brown Bears and Other Animals that Use Tools

on March 07 2012 10:56 AM
  • Brown Bears
    Volker Deecke, a researcher from the University of Cumbria, England, was on vacation in Alaska when he came across the first evidence of brown bears using tools. Deecke witnessed the bear use several barnacle covered rocks to scratch its face and body. He suggested that the bear was scratching to alleviate the itch of molting and to remove food stuck in its fur. His findings were published in the journal Animal Cognition on Monday. Brown bears will often rub against trees and other objects to scratch themselves but this was the first instance of the animal using a tool to do so. Volker Deecke
  • Chimpanzees
    Dr. Jane Goodall first observed chimps using tools in 1960 when she saw the animal using sticks as probes to collect termites. In 2007, researchers in Fongoli, Senegal saw chimps sharpen branches and spear smaller primates called bush babies. Researchers saw this happen 22 times. In one instance, the chimp successfully killed and ate a bush baby that it speared. It is the only evidence of a non-human species using weapons. Reuters
  • New Caledonian Crow
    The New Caledonian Crow, which lives only on the Island of New Caledonia in the South Pacific, uses sticks to dig for food similar to the way chimps do. The bird will break and sharpen twigs and use it to poke and agitate grubs living in a log into biting the stick. The crow then withdraws the grub and eats it. Reuters
  • Capuchin Monkeys
    A brain implant allowed a temporarily paralyzed monkey to move its arm, giving hope that people with spinal cord injuries may one day move again. Reuters
  • Sea Otters
    Much like the Capuchin, sea otters will use rocks to crack open clam and abalone shells. Otters can hammer as fast as 180 times per minute to crack stubborn shells. Reuters
  • Orangutans
    Orangutans make a noise called a “kiss squeak” to warn other members of the species of a predator such as a leopard. However, researchers observed the ape using a branch and leaves to manipulate kiss squeak and make it sound deeper – the only known case of an animal manipulating sound. "It looks like orangutans try to deceive the predator when using the kiss squeaks on leaves, because orangutans only use it when they're highly distressed," Madeleine Hardus, the primatologist who discovered the ape using the technique, told New Scientist. Reuters
  • Elephants
    Researchers have observed elephants using a variety of different tools. The animal uses its trunk to pick up long sticks to scratch itself or palm fronds to swat flies. Elephants also intentionally drop rocks and logs onto electric fences in order to break it and escape from captivity. Reuters
  • Patna to Become Asia’s First Dolphin Research Centre
    The Gangetic river dolphins are one of the four fresh water dolphin species in the world. Reuters
  • Striated Heron
    The Striated Heron drops feathers and leaves onto the surface of the water as bait. When fish come to bite investigate, the bird will snap the fish up. Hooded Crows use a similar technique to fish. Smithsonian National Zoologica
  • Octopus
    Octopi will retrieve discarded coconut shells and create wearable “armor.” "While I have observed and videoed octopuses hiding in shells many times, I never expected to find an octopus that stacks multiple coconut shells and jogs across the seafloor carrying them," Julian Finn, the researcher who discovered the behavior, told Science Daily. Video of the technique can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1DoWdHOtlrk Museum Victoria
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Animals may not carry an electric drill or a screwdriver but that doesn't mean they don't know how to use tools. Researchers have seen primates, elephants, birds and other animals use tools both in the wild and in captivity to hunt, protect themselves or get rid of pests.

Most recently, researchers discovered that brown bears use tools to scratch and groom themselves. Click through the slideshow to see other tool-using animals.

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