A crow making tools? Sounds in- credible, because the cognitive ability to design, make, standardise and use tools is normally thought to be an activity of the intelligent
" human race. But according to Gavin
R Hunt, a biologist at Massey University in Palmerston, New Zealand, the tool-making capacity of the crow species Corvus moneduloides of the New Caledonia island group, about 1,448 km east of Australia, exceeds even the capacity of chimpanzees humankind's brightest primate relatives.
Grant, who has studied a breed of crows in the South Pacific rain forests for three years, reports that the crows actually make tool kits to extract worms and other prey from holes in trees and dead wood.
In the January 18 edition of Nature, Hunt said he had observed that crow tools had three marked features which appeared only in early human tool-using cultures after the Lower Paleolithic: a high degree of standardisation, distinctly discrete tools with definite imposition of form, and the use of hooks.
During his three-year-long research from 1992 to 1995 in New Caledonia, Hunt watched moneduloides crows make and use two distinctly different types of tools -one was hooked at one end, and the other was made from a tapered piece of stiff leaf from a local plant, with a barbed edge on one side.
Moneduloides are small in size, and resemble European jackdaws. They have broad bills which help them grasp their tools better. The hooked twig is held at an angle to the bill and the crow moves its head from side to side to probe a hole. To use a stepped-cut tool, the crow holds it by the broad end with the tip pointing straight ahead.