on 28 April 2013
An authoritative review of current research on tool use in animals, ranging from the more famed primate examples, such as chimpanzees, orangutans and capuchins. While examples of primate tool use have been well-documented since Jane Goodall's reports of the Gombe chimps' tool workshops, a number of other animals have been found to use tools in a complex manner including different species of birds (e.g. crows and finches). This book also discusses a synthesis with archaeological perspectives on tool use, relating modern ethological studies with those on hominid technology.
One of the greatest strengths of this book is its thorough discussion of cognitive perspectives on tool use, which is derived from studies done in the wild. In the past, most research on animal cognition originated from laboratory studies, which removes the context from which their cognitive capacities have developed. While this is useful for testing the upper limits of animal cognition, it is difficult to investigate how those capacities are actually applied in real-life situation, such as how to remove the hard, outer shell of a nut. 'Tool Use In Animals' provides a wonderful synthesis between cognition and ecology, and how modern research is tracing the links between ecological problems and how animals think and use tools to solve them.
Lastly, the section on archaeological perspectives gives this book evolutionary depth, which is a critical concern for palaeosciences investigating how tool use originated in human evolution. Recently, trends in archaeology have turned to primates to try and answer some of the riddle of how technology has evolved 2.5 million years ago. Primate species can help with these issues because they provide a wonderful insight into the social context for tool use and how social structures pass on technological behaviours from one generation to the next. Given the genetic relationship between African Great Apes and humans, it follows that our evolutionary ancestors, the hominid lineage, bares similarities to our Great Ape relatives. Thus, palaeoscientists can gain insight from the social structures of Great Apes, and the way in which these structures engender tool use and social learning of technological behaviours.
This book is a fascinating read, and compiled by some of the world's leading authorities in primatology, which makes this volume indispensable to anyone interested in animal tool use.