5 Animals That Use Tools

Many animals use tools to help them survive. These tools help these five clever animals get food, protect themselves, and build shelters.

Jul 1, 2023bySara Payne
animals that use tools

Humans aren’t the only animals who use tools. Chimpanzees make probes and sometimes spears. Crows use their own feathers and pebbles as tools. Elephants use logs like stepping stools. Dolphins use marine sponges to dig up prey at the bottom of the ocean. Finally, some octopuses use coconut shells as armor.

These clever creatures are some of the most intelligent animals in the world. So, why do these animals use tools and what does this say about them?

1. Chimpanzees

chimpanzees tools

Different types of chimps use different tools, especially for gathering food. Many chimps eat termites because they are full of protein and essential fats. Yet, termites have nests that are tricky to access. So, chimps adapted to make tools to fish out the termites from their nests.

Chimpanzees actually learn how to use tools through social interactions. Young chimps watch older chimps use these tools and mimic their use. This knowledge is passed down through generations.

Some of these primates have even developed spears. According to the Smithsonian, female chimps were more likely to use spears. Since females often carry their young around, they had to develop more inventive ways of catching prey. The females take a branch and chew off the end with their teeth to create a sharper end. Then, they use it to kill sleeping bush babies (a favorite prey of Fongoli chimpanzees).

Many scientists suggest that this is like how humans developed the use of tools and weapons.

2. Crows


Humans expect their primate cousins to use tools, but it’s much more surprising to find out that birds, such as crows, use them as well.

According to Scientific American, scientists discovered that crows were taking small sticks to poke around holes for grubs. This adaptation probably came about due to difficult foraging conditions. Crows not only use sticks and hard grasses for tools, but they will also use their own molted feathers and will save these tools to use them again.

These birds are very clever animals and also use pebbles as a tool to elevate the water level in containers to get a drink. And if that weren’t enough, they also crack nuts using rocks.

3. Elephants

elephant stick

“An elephant never forgets” is the old adage. Well, elephants really are incredibly intelligent creatures. They are complex problem solvers, and have a great deal of emotional intelligence, as seen in their funeral practices. They also use their trunks to pick up and use logs as tools.

Scientists have been studying elephant cognition in several zoos. For a long time, elephants were failing problem-solving tests, but one scientist realized that elephants don’t use trunks like hands. Trunks are for smelling and feeling. So, they altered the test. Elephants instead knock down trees and logs to use as step stools to reach food.

4. Dolphins

dolphin tool

Not only are dolphins amongst the smartest and most clever animals in the ocean, but they are some of the most sharp witted creatures on the entire planet. They can communicate with peers and have complex social structures. They even have nicknames for people they know. These intelligent animals also use tools such as sea sponges. They take these sponges to the bottom of the ocean and use them to dig up prey from the floor.

According to scientists, only female Bottle-nose dolphins use these tools to hunt prey. They eventually pass along their knowledge to their daughters.

5. Octopuses

octopus coconut shell

Octopuses are incredibly intelligent creatures. They can slip in and out of tight spaces, escape enclosures, and deceive even the most astute observer with their camouflage. These invertebrates are advanced, so it comes as no surprise that they too can use tools. Octopuses in Indonesia were observed using coconut shells. They hide in these shells and use the hard skin to protect them, like crustacean shells.

What is particularly fascinating about this habit is that they suction the coconut to their backs with their tentacles and use two tentacles to walk around on the sea floor. They can also barricade themselves into their dens with these shells or with rocks to further protect themselves from harm.

Octopuses can also use these coconut shells for deception, hiding in them to stalk their prey unseen.

Using tools is an advanced skill. Tool use makes human lives what they are today, but it also shows high intelligence and the ability to problem solve. The same could be said for the 5 animals on our list. There are among the many clever animals who in time may give scientists future insight into how humans evolved to our current level.

Sara Payne
bySara Payne

Sara is a mother of two and a high school English teacher who rediscovered her love of writing during the pandemic. She has 5 rescue cats: Neville and Luna, who are white cats with black and grey spots, and Ginny, Blue, and Fairy, who are calicos. Besides taking care of humans and fur babies, Sara enjoys gardening, crafting, and spending time in nature.