A rare non-human model for the evolution of musical tool use: drumming by the palm cockatoo (#278)
Palm cockatoos (Probosciger aterrimus) offer a rare example of a non-human species that manufactures and uses a musical instrument, or ‘sound tool’. They make a ‘drumstick’ by breaking off and trimming a living branch. They then grasp the drumstick in their foot and beat it against a hollow trunk. They also occasionally use a seed pod in the same way. Here we investigate the cognitive complexity behind this behaviour including 1. whether all individuals develop tool use, 2. whether the tools are made into standardise discrete shapes , 3. the extent of individually distinct styles, and 4. the implications of having more than one tool type ('parallel tool use'). We ask whether palm cockatoo drumming provides a useful evolutionary analogy to human instrumental music, in particular whether their drumming is rhythmic, whether males have individual styles, and whether it is performed to particular audiences. Whereas tool use in animals typically evolves in the context of foraging, palm cockatoos use their tools for performance and display, offering a rare opportunity to study tool use as the product of sexual, rather than natural, selection.