Life as We Know It
Whale of a comeback, dancing cockatoos, sticky bees, and waltzing pond scum
- By Amanda Bensen, Joseph Caputo, T.A. Frail, Laura Helmuth and Abigail Tucker
- Smithsonian magazine, July 2009
Name: Snowball, a sulphur-crested cockatoo (Cacatua galerita eleonara).
Moves: Bobs head, lifts leg to the tune of the Backstreet Boys' "Everybody."
Discovered: On YouTube. By scientists who then studied the bird's behavior. Analyzed: When the tempo of the music changed, the bird changed the pace of his head bobbing and leg lifting accordingly. Writing in Current Biology, the scientists call this "moving in rhythmic synchrony with a musical beat." Others call it dancing.
Not Alone: A second analysis, in the same journal, of more than 1,000 animal videos on YouTube suggests that other animals that learn through vocal mimicry—songbirds, seals, elephants, some bats and others—may have the same ability.
Learn more about the sulphur-crested cockatoo at the Encyclopedia of Life.