Gavin completed his PhD at Massey University in 1997 on the ecology of the endangered kagu of New Caledonia. His doctoral research was mostly carried out in New Caledonia from 1991-1995. During that time he discovered that the endemic New Caledonian crow had complex tool manufacturing and using skills. He has been a Research Fellow at University of Auckland since 2000.
Research | Current
Gavin’s early research on New Caledonian crows provided the important first descriptive accounts of their tool manufacturing and using skills. He showed that their tools had three features new to tool use in nonhuman animals: a high degree of standardisation, discrete tool types with definite imposition of form in tool shaping, and the use of hooks. He also showed lateralisation in tool manufacture, which suggested a possible association between their tool skills and cognitive specialisation.
Gavin’s research has attracted world-wide media attention including a full page article in The New York Times and international television documentaries. His initial discovery in 1996 has been highlighted as one of the most important of the 20th century in the book “Defining moments in science”. One reason for this is that complex tool manufacture and use in New Caledonian crows has shown that the evolution of sophisticated tool skills is not dependent on having a primate brain.
Selected Publications and Creative Works (Research Outputs)
Hunt, G. R. (2014). New Caledonian Crows' (Corvus moneduloides) Pandanus Tool Designs: Diversification or Independent Invention?. Wilson Journal of Ornithology, 126 (1), 133-139. 10.1676/13-085.1
Medina, F. S., Hunt, G. R., Gray, R. D., Wild, J. M., & Kubke, M. F. (2013). Perineuronal satellite neuroglia in the telencephalon of New Caledonian crows and other Passeriformes: evidence of satellite glial cells in the central nervous system of healthy birds?. PeerJ, 1,10.7717/peerj.110 Other University of Auckland co-authors: Fabiana Kubke , Martin Wild , Russell Gray
Abdelkrim, J., Gemmell, N. J., Hunt, G. R., & Gray, R. D. (2012). Population genetic structure and colonisation history of the tool-using New Caledonian crow. PLoS ONE, 7 (5).10.1371/journal.pone.0036608 Other University of Auckland co-authors: Russell Gray