April 2, 2013


Head-Bobbing Sea Lion Is First Non-Human Mammal to Keep Rhythm

Meet Ronan, a sea lion blowing scientists' minds with her ability to bob her head to the beat of music. Researchers at the University of California in Santa Cruz have trained Ronan to keep rhythm and the result is reshaping our understanding of how this trait is acquired.

Before Ronan, scientists thought only animals capable of vocal mimicry—humans and select birds that can repeat our language, like parrots and cockatoos—could be taught rhythm. Exhibit A: this dancing cockatoo. But this four-year-old sea lion is breaking that theory.

Ronan was played a simple metronome at first, and when she bobbed her head with in time she was rewarded with a fish. Eventually, Ronan bobbed along to the beat of pop tunes. Today she can spontaneously head bang to tracks she's never heard before! Perhaps her trainers should play Metallica or Skrillex.

Watch Ronan rock out to Backstreet Boys' "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)" and "Boogie Wonderland" by Earth, Wind & Fire (which is reportedly her favorite song) above. Then imagine this: Snoop Lion collaborating with a Sea Lion. Heavy.