It is interesting to see animals use tools for various purposes. Be it a chimpanzee, a bird, a fish or an elephant, they have been taught to use tools as defense, catch their prey or scratch their body. It is common to see monkeys, orangutans, gorillas and other primates throwing sticks or stones as weapons to protect themselves. They use rocks to open nuts or ant/termite nests. Thus, the two most frequently used tool materials are plants and stones though not all animals use tools.
One species of wood pecker normally holds a cactus spine or any sharp twig in its bill while probing under the bark or into holes for insects. When the insect tries to make an escape, it shifts its tool to its feet, eats it and then puts the twig or spine back in its bill. An elephant picks up a stick, an uprooted shrub or a small tree to scratch an itch in places like middle of its back. Mother elephants sometimes use tools to spank the misbehaving young one.
A six-inch archer fish uses water as a tool for getting food. The fish moves close to the surface of water looking for spiders or small insects on overhanging branches. When it spots a meal, it moves back and forth in the water. Then the archerfish spits ‘bullets’ of water at the target, causing it to fall in the stream.
In the sea, otters use rocks. They pick up rocks from the ocean bottom. Floating on their back, they place them on their belly and smash their hard-shelled prey against the rock. They also use sea weeds to keep their family members tied together and not drift apart.
The tool using ability of an animal is an inborn trait. Animals without such a trait can be trained to learn the skill but they respond only under compulsion especially for rewards – which is often ‘food’.