Tugging at Tool Use - Dorothy Fragaszy

Wednesday, 3 September, 2014 - 09:30 to 11:00
Among primates, only humans are obligate tool users. Tool use in other primates is remarkably rare, rarer in individuals living natural settings than in captivity, and overall simple in organizational structure. Yet nonhuman primates use their hands dexterously and manipulate objects adeptly. Thus it is an enduring puzzle that they are so limited in using tools. It is equally puzzling that tool use appears in precious few species of nonhuman primates, and only in some populations, but not in other populations of the same species and not in other species that seem equally well-equipped for such activity. Tufted capuchin monkeys are among the rare taxa in which some populations use tools routinely and flexibly in natural settings. They therefore afford an opportunity to consider how and when a quadrupedal, arboreal primate discovers how to solve a problem using a tool; how it masters using a tool with skill; and how once solving a problem using a tool is discovered by one individual, others living the same group come to share the skill. I will use examples drawn from our work with wild and captive tufted capuchin monkeys to illustrate skills that these monkeys routinely master when using tools, and the social and physical contexts that support development of these skills. Comparing capuchin monkeys with chimpanzees and humans in these domains is enlightening. Compelling parallels in life history, foraging strategies and social characteristics in capuchin monkeys and hominids, that last shared a common ancestor about 35 million years ago, give us a partial view of the features that lead some species of primates into tool use. We are beginning to tug on the veil obscuring our view of this part of our evolutionary landscape.
As John Muir reminded us, “when we tug on a single thing in nature, we find that it is attached to the rest of the world”.
perceptuomotor challenges and skills in using percussive tools ﴾field experiments﴿
accommodating irregularities of tools and surfaces while using rake tools ﴾lab﴿
predicting motion of an object across surfaces varying in solidity and continuity ﴾lab﴿
social supports for learning to use percussive tools ﴾including artefacts﴿ ﴾field ﴿
developmental trajectory for percussive tool use ﴾in relation to foraging and physical growth﴿ ﴾field﴿
Selecting nuts, stones, anvils for nut‐cracking ﴾field﴿