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Review
, 368 (1630), 20120424

Tool Use by Aquatic Animals

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Review

Tool Use by Aquatic Animals

Janet Mann et al. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci.

Abstract

Tool-use research has focused primarily on land-based animals, with less consideration given to aquatic animals and the environmental challenges and conditions they face. Here, we review aquatic tool use and examine the contributing ecological, physiological, cognitive and social factors. Tool use among aquatic animals is rare but taxonomically diverse, occurring in fish, cephalopods, mammals, crabs, urchins and possibly gastropods. While additional research is required, the scarcity of tool use can likely be attributable to the characteristics of aquatic habitats, which are generally not conducive to tool use. Nonetheless, studying tool use by aquatic animals provides insights into the conditions that promote and inhibit tool-use behaviour across biomes. Like land-based tool users, aquatic animals tend to find tools on the substrate and use tools during foraging. However, unlike on land, tool users in water often use other animals (and their products) and water itself as a tool. Among sea otters and dolphins, the two aquatic tool users studied in greatest detail, some individuals specialize in tool use, which is vertically socially transmitted possibly because of their long dependency periods. In all, the contrasts between aquatic- and land-based tool users enlighten our understanding of the adaptive value of tool-use behaviour.

Keywords: aquatic; benthic; cultural transmission; foraging; specialization; tool use.

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