Did tool-use evolve with enhanced physical cognitive abilities? [rstb]
Abstract: The use and manufacture of tools have been considered to be cognitively demanding and thus a possible driving factor in the evolution of intelligence. In this study, we tested the hypothesis that enhanced physical cognitive abilities evolved in conjunction with the use of tools, by comparing the performance of naturally tool-using and non-tool-using species in a suite of physical and general learning tasks. We predicted that the habitually tool-using species, New Caledonian crows and Galápagos woodpecker finches, should outperform their non-tool-using relatives, the small tree finches and the carrion crows in a physical problem but not in general learning tasks. We only found a divergence in the predicted direction for corvids. That only one of our comparisons supports the predictions under this hypothesis might be attributable to different complexities of tool-use in the two tool-using species. A critical evaluation is offered of the conceptual and methodological problems inherent in comparative studies on tool-related cognitive abilities.