Crows, already known for adapting objects as tools, have even more impressive brains than previously believed, displaying a type of intelligence crucial to human evolution.

Seven crows from the islands of New Caledonia showed scientists they could retrieve an unreachable snack with a stick, which first had to be obtained using another tool.

This kind of "metatool" use requires high levels of intelligence and reasoning and has only been observed before in humans and great apes.

The ability of New Caledonian crows to make hook-like sticks which they use to winkle out food such as insect grubs is well-known.

The new evidence is much more striking, showing a level of understanding similar to that of chimpanzees, gorillas and orang-utans.