New Caledonian crows plan for specific future tool use

M Boeckle, M Schiestl, A Frohnwieser, R Gruber, R Miller, T Suddendorf, R D Gray, A H Taylor, N S Clayton

Research output: Journal article (peer-reviewed)Journal article

26 Citations (Scopus)


The ability to plan for future events is one of the defining features of human intelligence. Whether non-human animals can plan for specific future situations remains contentious: despite a sustained research effort over the last two decades, there is still no consensus on this question. Here, we show that New Caledonian crows can use tools to plan for specific future events. Crows learned a temporal sequence where they were (a) shown a baited apparatus, (b) 5 min later given a choice of five objects and (c) 10 min later given access to the apparatus. At test, these crows were presented with one of two tool-apparatus combinations. For each combination, the crows chose the right tool for the right future task, while ignoring previously useful tools and a low-value food item. This study establishes that planning for specific future tool use can evolve via convergent evolution, given that corvids and humans shared a common ancestor over 300 million years ago, and offers a route to mapping the planning capacities of animals.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20201490
Pages (from-to)20201490
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1938
Publication statusPublished - 11 Nov 2020


  • Animals
  • Crows
  • New Caledonia
  • Tool Use Behavior


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