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This Sea Lion Can Keep Time With the Backstreet Boys

Ronan the sea lion can keep a beat, something sea lions weren't supposed to be able to do

smithsonian.com

Ronan the Sea Lion can get down at the club way better than you, if you can find a club that still rocks out to Earth, Wind & Fire‘s 1979 hit Boogie Wonderland. Or possibly the Backstreet Boys’ Everybody. (Or even some CCR.) Ronan the Sea Lion is an expert beat-keeper, able to bob his head to the music—a task that people thought sea lions just didn’t have the musical chops for.

The research with Ronan says Wired‘s Nadia Drake is “challenging researchers’ notions about beat-keeping in animals.”

Previously, the only non-human animals shown to keep a beat were birds with exceptional vocal mimicry skills, such as Snowball, the dancing cockatoo. As a result, scientists had suggested that learning such skills required a talent for vocal mimicry.

But Ronan is not a vocal mimic, so finding that he could perform this task was a surprise. Scientific American:

“Human musical ability may in fact have foundations that are shared with animals,” Cook said. “People have assumed that animals lack these abilities. In some cases, people just hadn’t looked.”

Sea lions are very trainable animals, able to follow along with and mimic human tenders. But Ronan’s groove is different—he isn’t just watching a human bob and following along. He’s finding the beat for himself.

But Ronan still may have some competition at the club. (We’re not totally sick of Harlem Shake videos, right?)

More from Smithsonian.com:

Sea Lions Deliberately Collapse Their Lungs So They Can Dive Deeper
Hundreds of Emaciated Stranded Sea Lion Pups Are Washing Ashore in California

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About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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