A unique non-human model for the evolution of musical tool use: drumming by the palm cockatoo

Palm cockatoo

Description

This project explores the evolution of complex cognition through analysis of tool manufacture in palm cockatoos.

There is a virtual absence of instrument manufacture and instrumental music production in non-human species. However, one species has been repeatedly identified as a likely candidate; the palm cockatoo (Probosciger aterrimus).

As far as we can discover, this is the only non-human species that manufactures and uses a musical instrument, or ‘sound tool’. Palm cockatoos manufacture a ‘drumstick’, from a branch, then grasp the drumstick in their foot and beat it against a hollow trunk. The drumming is audible at over 100 m. In this project, we will explore the evolution of complex cognition through analysis of tool manufacture in palm cockatoos. We then ask whether palm cockatoo drumming provides a useful evolutionary analogy to human instrumental music.

Updated:  24 June 2017/Responsible Officer:  Director RSB/Page Contact:  Webmaster RSB