It was a mystery. Science has studied the rare ability of a population of crows in New Caledonia. They represent a unique type of tool in the animal world. It’s a kind of hook. But how did crows learn to make hooks? Part of the answer has to do with genetics.
They make their own hook-tipped embroidery tools. And what do you use them for? To catch invertebrate prey in small holes and crevices. It is the only known non-human animal that makes such accessories.
“You went to great lengths to make it. You use certain plants with forked stems. They turn them into hook-shaped tools to search for food. The study co-author, Dr. Linda Neaves said in a statement. “But they remove the leaves and much of the bark. It is impossible to quickly identify plant species.
They had three long-term study places. In one of them, it was found that the raw material was an introduced bush. In the other, it was a variety of species. There was already no answer to the third, it was very difficult to determine.
Eventually they turned to Professor Peter Hollingsworth for help. It belongs to the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh, Scotland. They asked if DNA could be used to determine which plant it was. So came the answer. It matched the DNA of a large native tree, Mimusops elengi.
Part of the puzzle solved
It’s local. It could have been the original plant that was used to make tools. The field team later confirmed this. And the fact is that the crows in temporary captivity did it with this plant, “explained Steele.
Obviously these crows have adapted. You can use introduced plant species. But it’s exciting to discover that this population prefers a native tree. This raises many interesting questions. How and why do crows choose the plants they use? How can this be influenced by changes in your environment? ‘
Much remains to be studied to know how the crows learned to make hooks. But one of the keys has already been discovered.