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Trends Ecol Evol. 2008 Feb;23(2):73-8. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2007.10.006. Epub 2008 Jan 11.

Setting tool use within the context of animal construction behaviour.

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Institute of Biomedical and Life Sciences, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, G12 8QQ, UK.


Tool use and manufacture are given prominence by their rarity and suggested relation to human lineage. Here, we question the view that tool use is rare because cognitive abilities act as an evolutionary constraint and suggest that tools are actually seldom very useful compared with anatomical adaptations. Furthermore, we argue that focussing on animal tool use primarily in terms of human evolution can lead to important insights regarding the ecological and cognitive abilities of non-human tool users being overlooked. We argue that such oversight can best be avoided by examining tools within the wider context of construction behaviours by animals (such as nest building and trap construction).

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