Vol 8, Issue 1, February 2021

A Short Report on the Extent of Stone Handling Behavior Across Otter Species


Bandini, E., Bandini, M., & Tennie, C. (2021). A short report on the extent of stone handling behavior across otter species. Animal Behavior and Cognition, 8(1), 15-22.  https://doi.org/10.26451/abc.


Animal stone-handling behavior (SH) has been recorded in detail only in primates, mainly across macaque species. The purpose(s) of SH are still unknown, yet various hypotheses have been suggested, including that it is a misdirected behavior when hungry and/or a play behavior that aids individuals' motor and stone tool-use development. SH has also been observed across both wild and captive otter species, but no overview report of the extent of this behavior across otter species has been published yet. To fill this gap in the literature, we contacted wild and captive otter researchers and keepers to enquire directly on SH in the species they work with. We accepted anecdotal reports in this first review of the behavior. Using the reports and anecdotes thus obtained, we compiled the first list of otter species that show SH. We found that most (10 out of 13) of currently known otter species practice SH. Therefore, similarly to macaques, SH is also common in otters and occurs in the majority of species. Future studies should focus on replicating these findings and further investigating the potential functions and selection pressures of SH in otters and other animal species.  


Otters, Stone handling, Stone manipulation, Stone play, Otter stone tool-use