Do Woodpecker Finches Acquire Tool Use Through Social Learning? [RPSB]
Tebbich et al, 2001
Abstract:Tool–use is widespread among animals, but except in primates the development of this behaviour is poorly known. Here, we report on the first experimental study to our knowledge of the mechanisms underlying the acquisition of tool–use in a bird species. The woodpecker finch Cactospiza pallida, endemic to the Galápagos Islands, is a famous textbook example of tool–use in animals. This species uses modified twigs or cactus spines to pry arthropods out of tree holes. Using nestlings and adult birds from the field, we tested experimentally whether woodpecker finches learn tool–use socially. We show that social learning is not essential for the development of tool–use: all juveniles developed tool–use regardless of whether or not they had a tool–using model. However, we found that not all adult woodpecker finches used tools in our experiments. These non–tool–using individuals also did not learn this task by observing tool–using conspecifics. Our results suggest that tool–use behaviour depends on a very specific learning disposition that involves trial–and–error learning during a sensitive phase early in ontogeny.