Tools and food on heat lamps: pyrocognitive sparks in New Caledonian crows?

Ivo Jacobs, Auguste von Bayern, Mathias Osvath

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Fire has substantially altered the course of human evolution. Cooking kindled brain expansion through improved energy and time budgets. However, little is known about the origins of fire use and its cognitive underpinnings (pyrocognition). Debates on how hominins innovated cooking focus on archaeological findings, but should also be informed by the response of animals towards heat sources. Here, we report six observations on two captive New Caledonian crows (Corvus moneduloides) contacting heat lamps with tools or placing raw food on them. The tools became singed or melted and the food had browned (and was removed). These results suggest that New Caledonian crows can use tools to investigate hot objects,which extends earlier findings that they use tools to examine potential hazards (pericular tool use), and place food on a heat source as play or exploration.Further research on animals will provide novel insights into the pyrocognitive origins of early humans.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)591-602
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Philosophy
  • Zoology

Free keywords

  • Tool use
  • Fire
  • Cooking
  • Pyrocognition
  • Cognitive evolution


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