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No. 13: Winter 1981

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New Definition For Humans Needed

One scientist has defined humans as "tool makers" as distinguished from "tool users." This distinction is necessary because several animals employ tools for simple tasks, such as fishing termites out of holes. However, Kitahara-Frisch points out in this paper that experiments by Wright with a young orangutan proved that at least one animal can actually make tools; that is, use one tool to make another. More specifically, Wright taught the orangutan to strike sharp flint flakes from a core and then use them to cut a cord and gain access to its favorite food.

(Kitahara-Frisch, J.; "Apes and the Making of Stone Tools," Current Anthropology, 21:359, 1980.)

Comment. Apparently, with orangutans, at least, no manipulative or cognitive barriers exist to prevent them from entering their own Stone Age.

Reference. The ability of non-human mammals to manufacture and use tools is cataloged at BMT11 in Biological Anomalies: Mammals I. To order, go to: here.

From Science Frontiers #13, Winter 1981. 1981-2000 William R. Corliss