9 Incredible Ways Animals Use Tools

From elephants using branches as fly swatters to monkeys flossing with human hair, the animal kingdom is constantly surprising us with their unique and incredible abilities.

Tool use was once a skill attributed solely to humans. In fact, it was a defining characteristic that differentiated us from animals, but as you can see from the following feats, we’re not that different after all!

Photo Credit: Greg McMullin via Flickr

Elephants show a remarkable ability to use tools, especially when it comes using branches to repel flies. If they’re being harassed by flies, rather than accept and endure the annoyance, elephants opt to craft tools from branches to reach those hard to get areas that their trunks just can’t get to.

2. Chimpanzees Use Leaves to Help Them Drink

When chimps are feeling thirsty and they can’t reach the water because it has formed in hollows that are high up inside the tree, instead of giving up and looking for water elsewhere, they get creative. They take a handful of leaves, chew them all up to make them nice and absorbent, then use them as a sponge to collect the water by dipping them into the little pool.

3. Octopuses Use Coconut Shells as Shelter

Studies have shown octopuses have been discovered tip toeing across the sea bed with coconut halves suctioned to their lower bodies as a means of protecting themselves or deceiving any predators that they might cross paths with. This bizarre and incredible behavior has gained the veined octopus a first class ticket into the elite club of tool-using animals, and they are the first member without a backbone.

4. Crows Use Traffic to Crack Walnuts

Crows posses an extraordinary tool using ability, and Caledonian crows in particular have demonstrated astonishing skills when they fancy filling up on their omega 3s. Crows in urban Japan have figured out that if they drop their walnuts in the right spot, that the cars will do the hard work of cracking that tough nut open for them. Perhaps even more fascinating is their ingenious method of doing this nut cracking on pedestrian crossings so they can collect their winnings in safety.

5. Dolphins Use Sponges as Face Protection

Bottlenose dolphins have been observed tearing off pieces of sponge and using it to wrap around their delicate noses to prevent abrasions when hunting fish on the sea floor. To ensure these sponge masks offer the appropriate protection, the dolphins spend a considerable amount of time searching for the perfect fit for their individual noses.

Photo Credit: Tambako the Jaguar via Flickr

Macaques living near a Buddhist shrine in Thailand use human hair to keep their pearly whites in tip top condition. The monkeys climb onto people’s backs, pluck out a strand of hair, then retreat to somewhere quiet to spend a few minutes flossing their teeth. Researchers have noticed that this is a taught behavior that has been passed down from the monkey’s moms.

7. Crabs Use Seaweed to Make Camo Jacket

Aptly named, decorator crabs are known to use seaweed, sponges and anemones to fashion themselves the equivalent of a camo jacket in order to blend into their surroundings. This incredible little critter pulls up the aquatic plants and attaches them via small hooks that act as a temporary adhesive on its shell. This nifty disguise helps the decorator crab stay off the menu, especially when entering a new environment.

8. Gorillas Use Sticks to Gauge Water Depth

You only need to turn on the Discovery Channel to learn just how intelligent these remarkable primates are when it comes to problem solving. Scientists have observed gorillas using sticks to test the depth of water before wading across. One female gorilla was seen poking the ground in front of her with the stick before taking each step.

9. Otters Use Stones to Open Clams

When they’re not looking super cute floating around on their backs and holding hands, sea otters are using stones that are placed on their chest as a means of dislodging and cracking open mussels. The same stone is also retained and used for several successive food items, including crabs and urchins.

Which animal are you most impressed with?

Photo Credit: Tambako the Jaguar

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Oleg Kobetz
Oleg Kobetz1 years ago

Thank you

Kathy Perez
Kathy Johnson2 years ago

while animals are incredible, i think it is sad that people seem so SHOCKED that they are (omg) intelligent. Why are we so arrogant, to think we alone can have/use/make tools. They have done it longer. Why do we think we are so much better? WE are the ones destroying EVERYthing

David V.
David V.2 years ago

Animals are way smarter than humans give them credit for.....animals are the superior species not humans.

Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing :)

Nickihermes Celine
Past Member 2 years ago

clever,thank you for sharing 14/7

Edgar Zuim
Edgar Zuim2 years ago

Smart animals.

Gita Sasi Dharan
Gita Sasi Dharan2 years ago

Incredible, Yes.

Milan L.
Milan L.2 years ago

The #3 -Octopus: Make him the second member without backbone. #1 is Homo Politicus.

Spirit Spider
Spirit Spider2 years ago


Fi T.
Fi T.2 years ago

We all can learn from them