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27 July 2016, 16:43
Ronan the sea lion was rescued after three near-death experiences. Now she’s amazing scientists with her rhythmic skill.
Can animals keep a beat? Yes, if this wonderful video of Ronan the sea lion bobbing her head to Earth, Wind and Fire’s Boogie Wonderland in several different tempos is anything to go by.
Ronan is a female California sea lion, born off the coast of California in the summer of 2008. Rescued three times from sticky situations on a nearby highway, she was finally deemed unreleasable and taken in by the Pinniped Cognition and Sensory Systems Laboratory at the University of California Santa Cruz. Here, researchers started playing her a selection of disco and pop hits and found she could be trained to bob her head to specific tempos:
According to the UCSC, keeping a beat - known as ‘rhythmic entrainment’ to scientists – has previously been shown convincingly only in humans and certain birds such as parrots. This encouraged the idea that keeping a tempo was only possible in animals who showed a capacity for vocal mimicry.
Sea lions are not known for mimicry or complex vocalisation, so Ronan’s abilities go some way to disproving that theory and widening the pool of animals that can potentially be taught to keep a rhythm.
Having said that, Ronan still has a LONG way to go before she’s as skilled at dancing to pop classics as a cockatoo. Here’s Snowball, a rescue cockatoo known for dancing to Michael Jackson hits: