This sea lion is the first known non-human mammal to learn rhythm. And she can definitely keep one hell of a beat!
But it’s not all fun and games.
Ronan’s performances at the Long Marine Laboratory at the University of California, Santa Cruz have challenged the existing theory that only animals with the capacity for intricate vocal learning, such as parrots with their mimicry, can carry a tune. Researchers trained her to bob her head in time with various songs and tempos with metronome-like beats.
A graduate student at the lab, Peter Cook, started out working with Ronan as a side project.
“From my first interactions with her, it was clear that Ronan was a particularly bright sea lion,” Cook told NBC News. “Everybody in the animal cognition world, including me, was intrigued by the dancing-bird studies, but I remember thinking that on one had attempted a strong effort to show beat-keeping in an animal other than a parrot. I figured training a mammal to move in time to music would be hard, but Ronan seemed like an ideal subject.”