A California sea lion is groovin’ to the beat, bobbing her head in time with the music. It’s the first empirical evidence of an animal incapable of vocal mimicry that can keep the beat, according to new research published by the American Psychological Association (APA).
The three-year-old sea lion, named Ronan, demonstrated her abilities in six individual experiments led by doctoral candidate Peter Cook at the Long Marine Lab at UCSC. Ronan’s skills showed improvement through the progression of experiments and was able to successfully keep the beat in a follow-up test held weeks later.
Study authors suggest their findings challenge current scientific theories that an animal’s ability to synchronize its movements with sound are associated with the same brain mechanisms that allow for vocal mimicry in humans and some birds such as cockatoos, parrots, and budgerigars.
The findings were published online April 1 in APA’s Journal of Comparative Psychology.