Ronan, a sea lion at the University of California Santa Cruz’s Long Marine Laboratory is the first non-human mammal to show that she can move to the rhythms of a song, in this case the funky beats of Earth, Wind & Fire’s Boogie Wonderland.
The ability to keep a beat is innate for us humans – at least most of us. But it is rare to find this ability in other animals. Previously, only birds with talents for vocal mimicry were thought to possess rhythmic ability in the animal kingdom, and so it was thought that vocal mimicy and keeping a beat might be somehow linked.
Ronan’s rhythmic displays prove otherwise. They’re a product of research and training by Peter Cook, a graduate student in psychology at UCSC, and Andrew Rouse, a researcher at the Pinniped Cognition & Sensory Systems Lab. A study of their work with Ronan was published April 1, 2013, in the Journal of Comparative Psychology.
Bottom line: Sea lion Ronan is first non-human mammal to keep a beat. Her ability to rock out to Earth, Wind and Fire’s Boogie Wonderland is the product of research by scientists at the University of California Santa Cruz’s Long Marine Laboratory.
Emily Howard, Producer and On-Air Host, helps create EarthSky audio and video science products in English and Spanish. You might hear her voice on an EarthSky 90-second podcast, or on EarthSky 22, your weekly 22 minutes of science and music from Austin, Texas. Emily oversees the scheduling and production of EarthSky en Español’s audio, video, and online content. She is responsible for setting and enforcing deadlines, and reporting on product development. Emily graduated with honors from the University of Texas with a major in History (focus on Latin American Studies) and a minor in Spanish. She further cultivated her Spanish skills while living abroad in Valparaíso, Chile, and traveling extensively throughout South America, Mexico and Spain.