A few months ago, we posted about Snowball, the dancing cockatoo. While we were mostly just psyched that an animal was getting down to the Backstreet Boys' "Everybody" (seriously, watch the video—it's amazing), the scientific world was excited for a different reason.
It turns out there are a lot of dancing birds, but not many other animals who can dance (defined, in scientific terms, as being able to synchronize movement to a beat). For that reason neuroscientist Aniruddh D. Patel has hypothesized that there's a link between vocal learning and dancing. Humans talk up a storm and dance up a storm; they're able to imitate what they hear as well as what they see, with their voices and, ultimately, their bodies. Birds, who learn to sing by listening to other birds and copying the sounds, can do the same thing. Other animals can't. Or so Patel's theory goes.
But as this great NPR blog post notes, a California sea lion named Ronan seems to be able to keep a beat, too. Check out the video below—the evidence looks pretty convincing. (And we love that Ronan is also a fan of the Backstreet Boys.)
So what does this all mean? Are there other non-vocal-learner animals who, like Ronan, can rock out? Will we be seeing a bird-and-sea-lion dance revue anytime soon? Will it feature a Backstreet Boys soundtrack? The scientific jury is still out, but we're kind of hoping the answer is "yes" to all of the above.
What a week for dance and science, eh? A few days ago we told you about scientists using dancers to "bodystorm." Now there's this: While most previously thought that only humans had moves, scientists recently found evidence that no fewer than 15 species of animals can dance. And we're not talking about the elaborate but robotic courtship "dances" done by certain birds. This is moving to and with music, the way humans do.
The study was inspired by Snowball, the cockatoo who exploded the internets when he rocked out to the Backstreet Boys, clearly grooving with the beat. Neuroscientist Aniruddh D. Patel even conducted an experiment with Snowball to prove that he'd speed up or slow down his dancing to match various tempi. Then a second group of researchers canvassed YouTube, where they found the other movers and shakers of the animal kingdom.
So, full disclosure: 14 of the 15 dancing species are parrot varieties. (The outlier, interestingly, is an Asian elephant!) But we're going to use a little artistic license here and present a slideshow of adorable non-parrot animals "dancing." Because it's Monday, and everyone could use a little cheering up, and OH FER CUTE.
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