BBC Wildlife Magazine - - Wild News -

Play has a se­ri­ous side. Ac­cord­ing to new re­search, an­i­mals are bet­ter able to choose the right tool for a job if they have al­ready had the chance to play with it.

Bi­ol­o­gists tested the abil­ity of kea par­rots and New Cale­do­nian crows – both in­ven­tive tool-users – to solve tasks us­ing tools se­lected from a range of sim­i­lar ob­jects. Suc­cess might re­quire a par­tic­u­larly stiff cord to poke at things, for ex­am­ple, or a block of just the right weight to de­press a plat­form.

“Both species were bet­ter at se­lect­ing the cor­rect tools to solve a task if they had the op­por­tu­nity to ex­plore them be­fore­hand, sug­gest­ing that they were learn­ing some­thing about their prop­er­ties as they in­ter­acted with them,” says Katie Slo­combe of the Univer­sity of York.

“We found no ev­i­dence that the birds changed the way they in­ter­acted with the ob­jects af­ter learn­ing they could be used as tools,” adds Slo­combe’s col­league Me­gan Lam­bert. “This means that the birds did not ap­pear to ex­plic­itly seek in­for­ma­tion about the ob­jects, but rather learned about their prop­er­ties in­ci­den­tally through ex­plor­ing them.”

BE­HAV­IOUR A kea drinks from a leak­ing tap. This cu­ri­ous par­rot is bet­ter at choos­ing the cor­rect tool to solve a task if it can ex­plore first.

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