Monocular tool control, eye dominance, and laterality in New Caledonian crows.
Martinho A., Burns ZT., von Bayern AMP., Kacelnik A.
Tool use, though rare, is taxonomically widespread, but morphological adaptations for tool use are virtually unknown. We focus on the New Caledonian crow (NCC, Corvus moneduloides), which displays some of the most innovative tool-related behavior among nonhumans. One of their major food sources is larvae extracted from burrows with sticks held diagonally in the bill, oriented with individual, but not species-wide, laterality. Among possible behavioral and anatomical adaptations for tool use, NCCs possess unusually wide binocular visual fields (up to 60°), suggesting that extreme binocular vision may facilitate tool use. Here, we establish that during natural extractions, tool tips can only be viewed by the contralateral eye. Thus, maintaining binocular view of tool tips is unlikely to have selected for wide binocular fields; the selective factor is more likely to have been to allow each eye to see far enough across the midsagittal line to view the tool's tip monocularly. Consequently, we tested the hypothesis that tool side preference follows eye preference and found that eye dominance does predict tool laterality across individuals. This contrasts with humans' species-wide motor laterality and uncorrelated motor-visual laterality, possibly because bill-held tools are viewed monocularly and move in concert with eyes, whereas hand-held tools are visible to both eyes and allow independent combinations of eye preference and handedness. This difference may affect other models of coordination between vision and mechanical control, not necessarily involving tools.