Susan Healy | Building, Making, Creating: From Etymology to Behaviour and Intelligence
Tool making and use are often considered a hallmark of intelligence: the discovery that New Caledonian crows made tools caused a flurry of excitement in the world of animal cognition with much talk of 'feathered apes’. Of the explanations for the rarity of tool making across the animal kingdom (e.g. brain size, group size, sociality), none appear satisfactory. The rarity of the behaviour makes it difficult to study in an evolutionary context, but a phenotypically similar behaviour, nest building, is not at all rare. And it is increasingly amenable to investigation: I will present evidence of decision making with regard to appropriate materials and local environmental conditions, associating building decisions with reproductive success and the possibility of cultural evolution of built structures.