5 Pages

Tool Use

Tool use in animals refers to behaviors as di­ verse as an otter pounding mussels with a stone, an elephant using a stick to swat flies, a chim­ panzee banging gasoline cans together in a dominance display, an archer fish spitting wa­ ter at prey, and a wasp tamping soil around its nest opening with a pebble. Although the use of objects as tools by diverse species was well documented by naturalists in the 1800s (see Beck, 1980) according to anthropocentric thinking, tool use was a hallmark of intelligence and an ability that set humans apart from ani­ mals. The comfort of this clear demarcation between “us” and “them” began to dissolve in the late 1960s when Jane Goodall (1971) first reported that wild chimpanzees used sticks to “fish” for termites in ways that seemed uncan­ nily intelligent to the human observer. Her ob­ servations stimulated a renewed interest in this topic among ethologists, and reports of sponta­ neous tool use, in natural and captive settings by many species flooded the literature (for a review see Beck, 1980).