Head-Bobbing Sea Lion Changes Conceptions of Animal Rhythm

Alex Keyes

by Alex Keyes

Published April 3, 2013

Ronan, the beat keeping sea Lion, is challenging notions of rhythm in the animal kingdom, as well as having better time keeping skills than most humans. Before Ronan, it was generally thought that the only animals that could keep a beat were ones with vocal mimicry skills, such as Snowball, the dancing cockatoo. Ronan has no ability to vocalize like a Human. The reseachers at University California Santa Cruz wrote a paper in the Journal of Comparative Psychology discussing how Ronan changed their beliefs on what animals can keep a beat.

Ronan, the 4 year old sea lion, was rescued on highway 1 in San Luis Obispo before she found a home in the Pinniped Cognition & Sensory Systems Laboratory at University of California Santa Cruz. There Graduate Student Peter Cook trained her using a simple repeating sound, like a metronome. When she started to keep the beat, she was rewarded with a fish. Eventually, she graduated to complex songs, and now she can bop her head to the beat of songs she hasn't heard before.

Sea lions aren't known to have any vocal mimicry skills, so Ronan's talent was a surprise to researchers. “It may be that rhythmic ability is much more widespread in the animal kingdom than previously thought,” Cook says in the video. This means that with a little training, we could soon be wading into a whole new world of jungle boogie.

Some songs from her Playlist include

“Down on the Corner” (Creedence Clearwater Revival, 1969)

“Everybody” (Backstreet Boys, 1997)

“Boogie Wonderland” (Earth, Wind & Fire, 1979)

via: Wired

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