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Ecological, morphological and behavioural aspects of tool-use in New Caledonian crows

Troscianko, Jolyon Tomasz (2012)
Ph.D. thesis, University of Birmingham.

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Abstract

New Caledonian crows are amongst the most sophisticated tool-users in the animal kingdom. In this thesis I present my findings from various aspects of the crows’ behavioural ecology, morphology and cognition, contributing to our understanding of how this fascinating tool-use behaviour might have evolved. My studies in the field reveal new types of tool manufacture and foraging behaviour that help to build up a complete picture of the ecological importance of tool-use to wild crows. Additionally I demonstrate the subtlety and skill required to extract wood boring beetle larvae from their burrows, accounting for the slow development of tool-use proficiency in juvenile crows. Further work reveals how their unique visual field combines with a peculiarly straight bill to facilitate tool-use; perhaps the only evidence outside of the hominid hand for tool-use specific morphology. Recent studies suggest Corvus species are behaviourally and cognitively predisposed to become tool-users, however, through multiple lines of enquiry this thesis highlights the costs that New Caledonian crows bear in order to become successful tool-users. The unique ecological conditions in New Caledonia are likely to have made this costly form of foraging possible, helping to explain why tool-use is so rarely observed in other animals.

Type of Work:Ph.D. thesis.
Supervisor(s):Chappell, Jackie
School/Faculty:Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Life & Environmental Sciences
Department:School of Biosciences
Subjects:QL Zoology
Institution:University of Birmingham
ID Code:3540
This unpublished thesis/dissertation is copyright of the author and/or third parties. The intellectual property rights of the author or third parties in respect of this work are as defined by The Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 or as modified by any successor legislation. Any use made of information contained in this thesis/dissertation must be in accordance with that legislation and must be properly acknowledged. Further distribution or reproduction in any format is prohibited without the permission of the copyright holder.
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