Data-Driven Inference Reveals Distinct and Conserved Dynamic Pathways of Tool Use Emergence across Animal Taxa
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versioniScience. 2020, 23 (6), 101245. 10.1016/j.isci.2020.101245
Tool use is a striking aspect of animal behavior, but it is hard to infer how the capacity for different types of tool use emerged across animal taxa. Here we address this question with HyperTraPS, a statistical approach that uses contemporary observations to infer the likely orderings in which different types of tool use (digging, reaching, and more) were historically acquired. Strikingly, despite differences linked to environment and family, many similarities in these appear across animal taxa, suggesting some universality in the process of tool use acquisition across different animals and environments. Four broad classes of tool use are supported, progressing from simple object manipulations (acquired relatively early) to more complex interactions and abstractions (acquired relatively late or not at all). This data-driven, comparative approach supports existing and suggests new mechanistic hypotheses, predicts future and possible unobserved behaviors, and sheds light on patterns of tool use emergence across animals.