Whether it be in the unconscious tapping of a foot along with the radio, or an all out body-shaking shuffle on the dance floor, moving to the beat of music seems to come naturally for humans. But as one California sea lion named Ronan is proving, the notion that we are the only mammals with the ability to boogie just might be as outdated as the Mashed Potato.
In a series of experiments conducted at the Institute of Marine Sciences at the University of California at Santa Cruz, the 3-year-old sea lion was exposed to a variety of pop songs -- including such hits as John Fogerty's "Down on the Corner," "Everybody" by the Backstreet Boys, and "Boogie Wonderland" by Earth, Wind and Fire. Amazingly, Ronan learned to keep near-perfect rhythm once the music began, bobbing her head on time with the songs' changing beats.
According to the study's lead researcher, doctoral candidate Peter Cook, the sea lion's acquired rhythm-keeping ability demonstrates a cognitive capability previously observed in just a handful of other species already known to be musical.
"Dancing is universal among humans, and until recently, it was thought to be unique to humans as well. When some species of birds were found to have a similar capability for rhythmic movement, it was linked to their ability to mimic sound," says Cook. "Now we're seeing that even mammals with limited vocal ability can move in time with a beat over a broad range of sounds and tempos."
Sure, this might not be one of those academic pursuit in the field of biology might that drastically change the way we look at the natural world around us, but it does raise questions about our supremacy in a musical realm once thought to be uniquely human.