Scientists discover seal that dances to ‘Boogie Wonderland’ and Backstreet Boys

By Stephen C. Webster
Tuesday, April 2, 2013 12:29 EDT
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In a study published Monday by The Journal of Comparative Psychology, researchers at the University of California Santa Cruz announced that they’ve discovered “the first non-human mammal to be able to keep a beat.”

The creature who earned that distinction is a seal named Ronan, trained to follow a simple repetitive sound with her head. While that may not sound all too impressive, what happened next shocked the researchers, who captured the amazing sight on camera and shared the footage on YouTube, embedded below.

“Once she had learned, without any further training, Ronan was able to find and keep the beat in complex stimuli, including music,” one of the researchers explains in the video as the seal dances to “Boogie Wonderland” by Earth, Wind and Fire, and “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)” by the Backstreet Boys.

While the skill of beat mimicry has previously only been observed in humans and some types of birds capable of vocal mimicry, Ronan’s ability suggests that many more species could have untapped musical abilities.

“These findings show that the capacity for entrainment of movement to rhythmic sounds does not depend on a capacity for vocal mimicry, and may be more widespread in the animal kingdom than previously hypothesized,” the study explains.

This video was published to YouTube on Sunday, March 31, 2013.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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