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EarthSky // Earth, Science Wire Release Date: Feb 16, 2014

Ronan the sea lion still rockin’ to a variety of beats

We knew Ronan could keep a beat. A new video presents Ronan’s ability to respond to a familiar song at a range of unfamiliar tempos.

Last year we met Ronan, a sea lion and the first non-human mammal convincingly shown to be able to keep a beat. The scientist who has worked most with Ronan, Peter Cook, recently called her range and versatility in matching different beats “impressive.” Cook is presenting his research on Ronan’s beat-keeping ability at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Chicago February 13-17, 2014.

In the new video clip above, Ronan – who is at Long Marine Laboratory at the University of California, Santa Cruz – responds to a familiar song (Boogie Wonderland by Earth, Wind, & Fire) presented at a range of unfamiliar tempos.

Cook began working with Ronan as a graduate student at UC Santa Cruz. He is now a postdoctoral fellow at Emory University. His work suggests an ability of Ronan’s that challenges earlier evidence from humans and parrots suggesting that complex vocal mimicry is a necessary precondition for flexible rhythmic entrainment.

Can’t get enough Ronan? The video below was originally released in 2013. Read more about Ronan at EurekAlert.

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.

The best-studied beat-keeping parrot is Snowball. Sure, she’s not a mammal, and she had previous vocal ability. But, as she shows in the clip below, she can rock with the best of them to Another One Bites the Dust by Queen.

Bottom line: Scientists released a new video showing Ronan, the beat-keeping sea lion from Long Marine Laboratory at the University of California, Santa Cruz. This one shows Ronan’s ability to respond to a familiar song at a range of unfamiliar tempos. Peter Cook is presenting his research on Ronan’s beat-keeping ability at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Chicago February 13-17, 2014.