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I’ve got an intelligent, stone-age species that looks a bit like an Azhdarchid pterosaur. It is around the size of a large eagle. They have a proboscis and a finger on each wing used for manipulating objects. They live in trees, caves, or anywhere that is not the ground.

Could a species like this develop fire? If they can, to what extent?

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  • $\begingroup$ There was once a stone-age species that looked a bit like an ape; it was about the size of a hyena. They had no proboscis and no tail, and could not fly, but had five fingers on each hand used for manipulating objects. What do you think, could they develop fire? And, to what extent? $\endgroup$ – AlexP Jan 7 at 20:43
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    $\begingroup$ The answer to "Could X happen?" is usually: "Yes, It's a big universe, and lots of weird and unexpected things happen." It's really a matter of the circumstances being right. Relevant: blog.nature.org/science/2018/01/12/… ...and those fire-users have teeny little brains. $\endgroup$ – user535733 Jan 7 at 21:07
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    $\begingroup$ In one of Vernor Vinge's stories, an unintelligent vulture learns to make fire, using only its beak. It'd make a nest of brush (kindling), then gather stones around that could spark (flint, lodestone? don't remember). It'd sit there for a day or two picking up the stones and dropping them on each other. When it lit, it'd fly off, and come back for a meal after the forest was done cooking it. Fiction, but seemed plausible to me. Fire usage probably doesn't require intelligence. $\endgroup$ – John O Jan 7 at 22:08
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I would say they could use fire in at least one way. A prominent theory* for proto-humans is that the first use use of fire involved merely capturing natural fires (like a grassland fire or from a lightening strike), and taking them back to a hearth in the cave or camp and keeping them going forever. You don't need a lot of dexterity for this, but do need a decent intelligence.

It is thought that it was quite some time later before they were able to start fires with friction, which may be tricky for the good ol hook-wing. But perhaps the hook-wing can manage it with flint?

Once the aliens have fire in a reliable way, no matter how they got it, they would probably play with it enough to eventually discover the benefits to cooking meat (easier to digest, gets rid of parasites, etc), using it to deter predators, and helping to fashion tools. Maybe even culture develops around it, with fire keepers as early priests and the most shielded hearth space belonging to the strongest chiefs, as some theories say happened with humans.

*Note: Any theory of fire with early hominids involves a lot of conjecture, so some disagree with this timeline.

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A couple of species of Australian raptors appear to use fire to flush out prey, intentionally spreading pre-existing fires. They don't even have the advantages you've listed, so if you want your birds to spread fire that is entirely plausible.

I mean if you think about it, fire is quite nice for humans, but it also can be quite dangerous if we accidentally let it spread too much. This is less of a problem if you can fly, so you might have created a species of pyromaniacs.

Perhaps they'll start by spreading fire to flush out prey. Then they'll find that the prey is actually better if it gets caught -- cooked food has many perks. If they are smart enough to start forming communities, they might try to keep fire around as a shared resource, etc etc.

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To whatever extent their intelligence is

Asking to what extent isn't an invalid question, as fire isn't exactly binary. After all, there's normal fire, and then there's 2,000 degree fire for smelting iron. The limiting factor for discovering fire is the ability to create it. An underwater species would have a great deal of trouble discovering fire, but a civilization that can fly and possesses the means to manipulate objects shouldn't have a problem developing fire as much as we humans have, unless their intelligence isn't as good as a humans.

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  • $\begingroup$ Did you mean an underwater species would be unlikely to discover fire? $\endgroup$ – Pingcode Jan 7 at 23:56
  • $\begingroup$ Yes, changed it. $\endgroup$ – Halfthawed Jan 8 at 0:12

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