Science Questions

Do any animals use objects as weapons?

Sun, 10th Apr 2011

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Question

Rob Anzellotti asked:

Chris,

There has been much made recently about animals making and using tools, from primates to birds. Has anyone ever observed nonhuman animals using found objects as weapons?

Thanks,

Rob Anzellotti

Cologne Germany

Answer

Kat -   This is a very interesting one, I've been looking into it a bit and there is some research.  It was published in 2007 in the journal Current Biology which does describe chimps using spears.  These are sticks that they had broken off and sharpened with their teeth.  What they were doing was stabbing them, these sticks, into holes in tree trunks where these little bush babies sleep that the chimps can eat.  The researchers saw them doing this stabbing thing and they wondered if they were trying to chase out the bush babies.  But they actually saw a chimp stab a bush baby, pull it out on the stick and eat it, suggesting that this is actually hunting behaviour and these chimps are in fact using their sticks as weapons!

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http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/7928996.stm RD, Sun, 10th Apr 2011

Rob Anzellotti asked the Naked Scientists: Chris, There has been much made recently about animals making and using tools, from primates to birds. Has anyone ever observed nonhuman animals using found objects as weapons? Thanks, Rob Anzellotti Cologne Germany What do you think? Rob Anzellotti , Tue, 12th Apr 2011

Neotropical primates use branches to throw them at tourists. FatRat, Fri, 15th Apr 2011

Wow this is an old thread but here goes....

I have observed a dog using a weapon to admonish another dog for trespassing.

It was very deliberately done to avoid getting into trouble by biting, growling or whatever is usual for them.

I have it on video.

So yes, dogs use things at paw as weapons sometimes also.

Bonaparte, Thu, 29th Aug 2013

An example of dogs using weapons in a natural setting might be...

A dog (A) is playing with a stick.

A puppy perhaps (maybe even it's own - a dog that it is not allowed to act aggressively towards by pack law anyway), (B) wanders into it's play area.

Sometimes the dog (A) will whack the offender (B) with the stick and feign an accidental occurrence, it does this to avoid retaliation by other pack members or the dog (B) itself, if it was a more dominant one.

This teaches the other dog to stay away or ask permission before walking through.

Bonaparte, Fri, 30th Aug 2013

What constitutes a weapon?

Otters use stones to crack the shells of their prey. CliffordK, Fri, 30th Aug 2013

Yes, that is an example of using a tool.

By weapon, I mean anything that is used as an instrument of behavior modification, combined with the use of force. As in the above example for instance, a stick is not a weapon while the dog is playing with it, it becomes one as soon as it is directed against another dog with intention and force.

As in this example of a domestic dog using a toy:

http://youtu.be/P-BPh1jP28Q (slow motion - strike only) Bonaparte, Fri, 30th Aug 2013

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