Caledonian crows make better tools

On our road to evolution, we developed several skills. One of them was tool making. That has taken us to where we are today. Other animals remained stuck at the lower rungs. Closest they reached didn’t come anywhere closer to human achievement. That was not the case with crows, the crafty bird. Especially in the case of Caledonian crows.

Found largely in France on the southwest coast of Pacific Ocean, they are the best tool-makers in the animal world, outshining chimps. Caledonian crows eat insects, snails, small mammals hidden the crevices of rocks, snagging them out using twigs. Not just twigs, but they sculpt twigs in the shape of hooks. That’s long intrigued evolutionary scientists. Now a study in Current Biology examines how crows fashion efficient tools. 

Hook was one of humankind’s most important innovations, says Science Daily. We started making stone tools some 3 million years ago. At the time, hooks were a recent invention. “The oldest known fish hooks are just 23,000 years old,” says the study.  In the animal world, only Caledonian crows are able to make efficient hooks. Researcher Christian Rutz, who has studied the bird over a decade, found the birds’ tools as varying in shape and size. They might serve different purposes.

Two things human craftsmen consider while creating a tool:   good raw materials and skill.  Caledonian crows approach tool-making in the same way.   The depth of their hooks varied depending on the quality of the materials. Their sharp bills allow them to make better tools, beating chimps.These birds made ‘deeper hooks’ using controlled cuts with their sharp bills. They also made ‘sloppier’ tools simply pulling off tree branches.

The study help scientists better understand how early humans developed complex tools.