This is a special Science Decoded post for Mrs. Podolak's first graders at Lincoln-Hubbard Elementary School (yes that would be my Mom's class). My viewers in Lincoln-Hubbard's first grade liked my post Animal Cognition & The Genius Parrot about Dr. Irene Pepperberg and her experiments with Alex the african grey parrot, so I decided to do a post just for them to give them some more information about animal cognition (thinking) by sharing some videos about tool use in animals.
Animal cognition is a fascinating subject because we don't even know everything about how our human brains work, yet we have been able to observe other species demonstrating the ability to think. The following videos show some interesting examples of animals showing us that they do think about their surroundings by using tools to achieve their goals.
Chimpanzees - termites are a source of food for chimpanzees, but they can be extremely difficult to catch because the mounds they build to live in are thick and hard for a chimp to break into. So, chimps have developed a way to infiltrate (sneak into) the mounds. They even modify (change) simple tools (a regular stick) by making them into brushes which capture even more termites.
New Caledonian Crows - birds like to eat nuts, but getting through the hard shell to the tasty part can be very difficult. These crows have devised a special way of cracking the nut, and even found a way to safely collect the edible part of the nut once it has been smashed. (Because this is a BBC video it needs to be watched on YouTube but clicking below will take you to the right link).
Octopus - Researchers have found an example of tool use by the octopus. The organism takes coconut shells and gathers them to use as a shelter which is a startling and significant use of an object external to the animal's self to achieve a goal among invertebrates (animals that don't have a spine, the bones in their back.)
There are many other examples of animals using tools, which shows that the ability to manipulate an object and use it to accomplish a task is by no means a uniquely human trait. If there are any questions, leave them for me in the comment section and I'll be sure to answer them!