Source
Scholastic News Online

Scholastic News Online is a free resource with breaking news and highlights from the print magazine.

Available for grades 1-6, Scholastic News magazine brings high-interest current events and nonfiction to millions of classrooms each week.

Additionally, our subscribers have FREE access to Scholastic News Interactive, an exclusive online learning tool featuring digital editions, videos, interactive features, differentiated articles, and much more.


This cuddly sea lion pup may be the first mammal besides humans ever known to learn dance movements. (Courtesy Peter Cook)

Can Sea Lions Dance?

A sea lion pup in California proves that humans aren’t the only mammals with rhythm

By Jack Silbert | May 10 , 2013
<p>Ronan’s caretakers trained her to dance and rewarded her with fish! (Courtesy Peter Cook)</p>

Ronan’s caretakers trained her to dance and rewarded her with fish! (Courtesy Peter Cook)

You’ve heard of Dancing With the Stars. But how about Dancing With the Sea Lions? A team of researchers at the University of California, Santa Cruz, have trained a sea lion to bob its head to music. Before now, scientists thought that only humans and some birds could react to music like that.

TRUE TALENT OR COPYCAT?

Scientists have long known that many animals are capable of mimicking (copying or imitating) human speech and language. But not much research has been completed on how animals mimic or understand human movement.

For the past several years, scientists had been very interested in Snowball, a cockatoo, which is a type of bird. A popular video on the Internet shows Snowball “dancing” to music. What scientists wanted to know was whether Snowball had truly learned to dance or was merely copying moves from a very good teacher.

Researcher Peter Cook wondered if he could teach a sea lion to do the same thing. For the experiment, he chose Ronan, a 3-year-old female California sea lion that lives at the UC, Santa Cruz’s Long Marine Laboratory.

The first step was to teach Ronan to bob her head up and down. Next, Cook trained Ronan to start bobbing her head when she heard a sound. Finally, there was the most important step: teaching Ronan to bob her head to the beat of the music. (The beat is the steady pulse of a song that you can tap your foot or clap your hands to.) When Ronan did this correctly, she was rewarded with a fish!

The tricky part came when Ronan was introduced to new music with a more complicated beat. She was able to find any beat in new songs and still reacted with the same dance in step with the music. Scientists call this “rhythmic entertainment,” and no nonhuman mammal before this peppy pup has ever been scientifically proven to have this ability.

A DISCO DANCER

Ronan was the perfect pup for the experiment, says Cook. “It was clear that Ronan was a particularly bright sea lion,” he says. Scientists are still unsure of whether all sea lions are capable of dancing, or perhaps Ronan is just unusually talented. But at least we know that Ronan is probably the best dancer of all the sea lions in the world.

In fact, Ronan is the star of her own popular online video. (Click here to watch Ronan’s dancing moves.) She even seems to have a favorite song for dancing: an old disco hit called “Boogie Wonderland”!

Scientists are now wondering if other types of animals might have this same dancing talent. “People have assumed that animals lack these abilities,” Cook says. “In some cases, people just hadn’t looked.”

  • Teacher Store
  • The Teacher Store  
    How to Beat the Bully Without Really Trying

    How to Beat the Bully Without Really Trying

    by Scott Starkey

    New kid (and self-admitted coward) Rodney Rathbone inadvertantly knocks out a bully, and now has a reputation he can't keep up. "Plenty of appeal with Jeff Kinney fans."—Kirkus

    $5.21 You save: 25%
    Paperback Book | Grades 4-5
    Add To Cart
    Educators Only
    How to Beat the Bully Without Really Trying
    Grades 4-5 $5.21
    Add To Cart
  • Teacher Store
  • The Teacher Store  
    Beat It!

    Beat It!

    by Ellen Tarlow and Fian Arroyo

    Another great title from Scholastic. Detailed description coming soon.

    $2.96 You save: 25%
    Paperback Book | Grades PreK-2
    Add To Cart
    Educators Only
    Beat It!
    Grades PreK-2 $2.96
    Add To Cart
Privacy Policy
EMAIL THIS

* YOUR FIRST NAME ONLY

* FRIEND'S FIRST NAME ONLY

* FRIEND'S EMAIL ADDRESS

MESSAGE
Here's something interesting from Scholastic.com