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When food is scarce, tool use among non-human primates does not increase. This counterintuitive finding leads researchers to suggest that the driving force behind tool use is ecological opportunity – and that the environment shapes development of culture. Whether you’re a human being or an orangutan, tools can be a big help in getting what you need to survive. However, a review of current research into the use of tools by non-human primates suggests that ecological opportunity, rather than necessity, is the main driver behind primates such as chimpanzees picking up a stone to crack open nuts.
An opinion piece by Dr Kathelijne Koops of the University of Cambridge and others, published today (12 November 2014) in Biology Letters, challenges the assumption that necessity is the mother of invention. She and her colleagues argue that research into tool use by primates should look at the opportunities for tool use provided by the local environment.
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Science Daily and University of Cambridge, Tools and primates: Opportunity, not necessity, is the mother of invention, 2014. Retrieved from: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/11/141111205906.htm
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