Chimpanzees are observed using various objects and even altering them in order to kill other monkeys or crack nuts, etc. The wonder of this isn't great, birds do all this and more. The range of actions and interactions by living creatures covers the spectrum of tool using, building activities. But none use fire.
For the first time, great apes have been observed making and using tools to hunt mammals, according to a new study. The discovery offers insight into the evolution of hunting behavior in early humans.
In each case a chimpanzee modified a branch by breaking off one or two ends and, frequently, using its teeth to sharpen the stick. The ape then jabbed the spear into hollows in tree trunks where bush babies sleep.
This is really the lowest level of 'tool making'. The anxiety to tie chimps to humans is understandable but elevating behavior misses the real point: it wasn't the use of rocks and sticks as 'tools', it was the morbid need to carry A stick or A rock around all the time and use the same one repeatedly and not for one day but day after day. Most other simians have fairly short attention spans. Even if they do manage to carry something around for several hours, eventually they drop it for something else. The human urge to pick up something and then, if it is put down, remember where it was and to resume picking it up is due to the evolution of our brains: the humanoids that put down rocks or sticks they worked on to make into a weapon would be picked up by a smarter humanoid who would then use it to kill the previous owner.
Evolution doesn't work if everyone is allowed to live and since most humanoids had few predators, the main one was their own kind. And if one forgot where one put that stick with the rock on the end and a lion or snake attacked, it was pretty sad. Dinner time for a predator and curtains for the careless homo habilis.
Chimpanzees in West Africa used stone tools to crack nuts 4,300 years ago.
The discovery represents the oldest evidence of tool use by our closest evolutionary relative.
The skill could have been inherited from a common ancestor of chimps and humans, the authors say, or learnt from humans by imitation.
Like humans, chimps like to bash things. And bashing rocks on nuts would seem quite logical. The difference between humans and chimps is, humans quickly refined this process and made most stone tools, even the most primitive, fairly uniform in size and the quality of the striking face. The hunt for appropriate stones for tools consumed part of the day and this would never have happened if there wasn't already the ability to remember where one put down the stone one turned into a tool.
Apes, like many life forms, have good memories for all sorts of things, even the tiny brains that are really a few nerves in bees, for example, can memorize many things about the hive and a landscape of considerable size. The ability to learn, memorize and track things exists to a startling degree in many, many life forms. The ability to use tools over and over again evolves in startling places.
For example, sea otters in California will place a sea urchin on their bellies as they float on their backs and using a rock, break the shell so they can eat the innards. The brain of a sea otter is smaller than a dog and somewhat bigger than a cat, yet its use of tools is on par with wild chimpanzees.
I once had a wild crow which I raised in the kitchen. He was fed cat food. He would watch me use the electric can opener. Once, when I was out and he was free of his cage, he hopped over to a can of cat food, he rejected the cans with no cat face on it, and shoved it to the can opener. Then he jumped on the handle which made it run but he couldn't get the can to open because it was not set in the groove.
This really angered him and he tried to shove it around different ways, trying to open the can. I watched from around the corner, hearing the opener running. Barely able to stifle my laughter, I came in and the outraged crow chewed me out, he was so angry.
Scientists know that the amorous architects of the bird world build three basic kinds of bowers: "maypoles," "mats," and "avenues." But only now are they beginning to discover the reasons behind the existence of these different forms. Mat, or platform, bowers are among the simplest: thick pads of plant material ringed with ornaments. One mat-builder, Australia's Tooth-billed catbird, builds what is known as a "circus ring" by arranging silvery leaves around the mat, like the petals of a disheveled flower. The bird constantly removes withered leaves in favor of fresh, shiny replacements. The more ambitious maypole bowers are twig towers built around one or a few saplings in a carefully groomed courtyard. The Golden bower bird even perches on a roofed bridge suspended between towers. And four other kinds of maypole builders surround their creations with lawns of moss. Avenue bowers, such as the Satin bower bird's, featured on NATURE, have two close-set parallel walls of sticks that sometimes arch over to create a tunnel. In a rare example of a bird using a tool, Satin and Regent bower birds may use a leaf or twig to paint the inner walls of their bowers with a stain made from chewed plants, charcoal, and saliva.
All birds manipulate materials with a deftness that leaves not just chimpanzees in the dust but many humans. They can weave nests that probably taught humans how to make baskets. I have had many birds and watching them prepare a nest site and then build a structure is most interesting. If they use straw like my African finches, they will pick through a pile of straw and critically examine each strand before choosing one and then both male and female will work jointly to work it into the growing nest which is very neatly woven. They have a very discriminating eye and will patiently pick up the same straw over and over again if it drops.
With parrots building a nest using woody twigs and a box, they will try to fly into the box with the twig sideways, fail, pick it up again and then rotate it so it goes in the second time. Bower birds are unusual because they build these structures to attract a female, not for nesting. They plan ahead and the uglier males work harder to attract females (the Fabio effect) so they stay in the gene pool. Since the elaborate structures are not directly attached to making a home, this is an outstanding example of tool making and using for the bower is a tool to court a female. Sort of like engagement rings with humans.
The bower bird also adds to and refurbishes his bower. This ability to patrol and correct or renovate is a higher trait than simply using something after making it. it implies memory, appraisal abilities and goal-orientations of a higher intelligence. Only the brain of this remarkable bird is hardly bigger than our thumbs!
Indeed, British musician David Hindley slowed bird song down and discovered parallels between the skylark's blizzard of notes and Beethoven's Fifth Symphony; between the woodlark's mind-numbingly complex song and J.S.Bach's 48 Preludes and Fugues. It changes its tune according to the rules of classical sonata form.
Song allows the bird to "speak" better than and other family of creatures. It is the perfect medium for communicating over long distances, or when it is hard to see the singer - and the audience: for example at night or in dense vegetation.
A chimpanzee's ability to talk is hardly superior to that of a typical bird. Chimpanzees have a fairly simple culture which I would call 'Adam And Eve': they hang out and do whatever they want pretty much all the time. Even sex involves precious little courtship. Baboons have a more challenging social life compared to chimpanzees.
Yet we evolved from the same stock! Truly, it must have been a very cruel fate that ejected us from the comfort of the jungles! One of the earliest things, aside from hanging on to rocks and sticks and combining them into weapons, we evolved was the ability to make and use fire.
Human-like species migrating out of their African homeland had mastered the use of fire up to 790,000 years ago, the journal Science reports.
The evidence, from northern Israel, suggests species such as Homo erectus may have been surprisingly sophisticated in their behaviour.
Caring for specific sticks or rocks takes a lot of concentration and worry. Indeed, we are all worry warts to some degree. The more intelligent the person, the greater the tendency to worry (Um, don't look at me so hard!). The proto-humans who captured fire from a lightning strike event or from a volcanic episode, both of which are common in rift zones, had to have the tendency to worry and fret sufficiently developed in order to nurture this fire and use it over time.
I heat my house with fire and keeping that fire going is a challenge, I have to worry about it a great deal, at least part of me has to. Tending the fire is a strong element in more than one religion, for example. Knowing how hard it is to keep any fire going, the use of fire means a division of labor and due to the fact that all societies no matter how primitive, honor the elderly enough to keep them alive means the fire tenders were most likely the older members of clans. Collecting sticks and feeding the fire, the elderly remained at home at the beginning of the Ice Ages and the young females foraged nearby while the males took their stones and sticks they kept a close eye on and off they went, hunting.
The success of this level of tool making/weapons using/ fire burning culture was so powerful, the teeth of proto-humans immediately began their long degeneration from fangs and sharp daggers to the stubby, weak things we have today.
Human-like species living in Africa up to 1.5 million years ago may have known how to control fire, scientists say.
US and South African experts analysed burnt bones from Swartkrans, just north of Johannesburg, using the technique of electron spin resonance.
It showed the bones had been heated to high temperatures usually only achieved in hearths, possibly making it the first evidence of fire use by humans.
Proof that our earliest ancestors had to use language as well as showing each other how to do things is the fact that most modern humans, raised in a city, if lost in the countryside, probably could not fend for themselves for long if they had to make tools and fire from scratch. I remember learning how to do this. Namely, someone who knew, taught me how. The loss of this level of information is dangerous because once lost, it is very hard to regain.
The cultural loss almost all native tribes feel today is due to this interruption in a million years of passing on vital survival information, hand to hand. The old stories and religious activities surrounding the memorization and learning of these higher skills are rapidly collapsing in many places. In the cities, many humans are sliding into the mindless, thoughtless 'Adam And Eve' culture of the chimpanzees.
Note that chimpanzees have hardly changed over the last 5 million years.