Monday, July 4, 2011

Not just winging it: Cockatoo rocks to Backstreet Boys

Not just winging it: Snowball the dancing cockatoo whose sense of rhythm has amazed scientists

Last updated at 1:03 PM on 4th July 2011
Meet Snowball, the dancing cockatoo who is forcing scientists to re-evaluate their opinion on avian intelligence.
The 13-year-old bird likes nothing better than bobbing up and down while shaking and tapping his feet to pop and rock music.
His dancing antics have made him an internet superstar while scientists are hailing his moves as proof that humans aren't the only creatures with a sense of rhythm.
Scroll down for video link
He's got rhythm: Snowball the dancing cockatoo has been hailed by scientists as proof that humans aren't the only creatures with rhythm He's got rhythm: Snowball the dancing cockatoo has been hailed by scientists as proof that humans aren't the only creatures with rhythm
Grooving to music by artists including Queen, the Backstreet Boys and Lady Gaga, the sulphur-crested Eleonora bobs his head, steps to the side, lifts his leg and shakes his body with impeccably good timing.
Now researchers have timed his rhythm to establish just how good a dancer Snowball is.
Using scientific measurements of synchronisation, they proved that the musical beats and dancing were linked up.
    Dr Aniruddh Patel of The Neurosciences Institute in San Diego said: 'We've shown that if the music speeds up or slows down across a wide range, he adjusts the tempo of his dancing to stay synchronised to the beat.'
    He added: 'I was transfixed. I'd never seen anything like it in my life.'
    Snowball is a phenomenon because he is the first non-human animal documented as dancing to a synchronised beat.
    While many animals respond to music, no other animal except for humans has been found to keep to a rhythm.

    Dr Patel and colleagues studied Snowball along with hundreds of other birds.
    They searched the internet site YouTube for videos of animals dancing to music - including parrots, dogs and cats.
    They studied each video frame by frame, comparing the speed of the music and the movements of the creatures. 
    Suspect videos - where the music appeared to have been added afterwards - were ignored, as were videos where an animal could have been following movements offscreen.
    From more than 1,000 videos, they found evidence that 14 species of parrot and one species of elephant can move in time to music.
    Chimpanzees, dogs and cats appeared to have no sense of rhythm.
    Mid-move: Snowball gets down to a German polka
    Mid-move: Snowball gets down to a German polka
    'For a long time, people have thought that the ability to move to a beat was unique to humans,' said researcher Dr Adena Schachner. 
    'After all, there is no convincing evidence that our closest relatives, chimpanzees and other apes, can keep a beat, and there is similarly no evidence that our pet dogs and cats can line up their actions with a musical beat.'
    After identifying the dancing birds, the researchers studied Snowball - who lives in a bird shelter in Indiana - in the lab. 
    The scientists believe the parrots' sense of rhythm is closely linked to their ability to mimic songs.
    Dr Schachner added: 'If you are imitating a sound, you constantly monitor your memory of the sound you are trying to imitate, as well as the sound you are producing, so if you notice a difference, you can change your vocalisation. 
    'So it seems plausible that vocal mimicry and keeping a beat might rely on some of the same mechanisms.'
    The same ability to dance could also be shared by other mimics in the natural world - such as seals, dolphins, elephants and song birds, she said.

    Read more:

    No comments:

    Post a Comment