About Me

My photo
I'm a life-long New Englander, father of 4 challenging kids (I know: I'm supposed to say "wonderful", but while that'd be true, technically speaking, it'd also be misleading), and fortunate husband to my favorite wife of more than 20 years. I've got over 20 years experience breaking things as a test engineer, quality engineer, reliability engineer, and most recently (and most enjoyably) a Product Safety / EMC Compliance Engineer. In the photo, I'm on the left.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Animals Using Tools

Have you ever run into the assertion that humans and chimps are the only animals that use tools?

Chimps will take a long piece of grass and stick it into a termite mound to extract termites to eat. I have a friend who grew up in India, where live a number of monkey species that emulate human activity to the point where they'll use sticks as spears. Very cool stuff.

But humans and chimps are not the only tool users in the animal kingdom. I am not about to claim to be an expert on the subject, but here are three extra cool examples, in order from least to most cool, of animals using tools:

Kinda cool:
Seagulls will take clams up on high and drop them onto roads, rocks, or other hard surfaces (like anvils or my head) to open them. I think that this is using a tool, like whacking a walnut with a mallet, only backwards.

Pretty cool:
Otters will put a rock on their own little tummy while they float on their backs and crack clam shells on the rock. This is how they get their meat (and I'm told that they have to eat more than their own weight every day).

Wicked Totally Awesome Cool:
In my opinion nothing but nothing beats the Corolla Spider. The Corolla Spider digs out a hole and surrounds the entry to the hole with quartz crystals. If an insect touches one of the quartz crystals, the vibrations transmit through the quartz and tell the spider exactly where teh insect is, and thererfore where to attack.

There's an Animal Planet video here:

The buggers didn't want me to embed it...feh!


  1. I've seen otters do this, and it may not be the coolest, but it certainly is the cutest.

    1. Yeah - Otters get the Cutest Animal award for things like that!

  2. I knew about the seagulls and the otters but the spider was all news to me...pretty darn smart.

    1. One of the coolest things in the animal kingdom that I've stumbled upon. And I wouldn't be surprised if they've been using that tool far longer then men have had fire.

  3. Downtown Boston, particularly the area surrounding the fort point channel is littered with crab shells, from seagulls.

    I've seen monkeys throw poo at people... that's like using a tool right?

  4. I think that only counts as using a tool if they load the poo into a trebuchet first. I could be wrong, of course, but that's my sense.

  5. I've seen some pretty amazing stuff with crows and rats... now to check out these otters...

  6. Ooop, sorry, corolla spider. Too cool!