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Dancing Animals

May 11, 2009

Some animals can dance to a beat, while others have no rhythm.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

L.Miguel Bugallo Sánchez wikipedia 1280px-Psittacus_erithacus_-perching_on_tray-8d

African grey parrots can dance to a beat. (L.Miguel Bugallo Sánchez/Wikipedia)

Dancing parrots…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

(Circus music)

You’ve probably seen video clips of dogs, cats, or birds that look like they’re dancing to music. But can our furry and feathered friends really move to a beat? To find out, Harvard University biologist Adena Schachner and her colleagues systematically analyzed thousands of YouTube videos featuring a variety of dancing animals. They discovered an interesting trend.

ADENA SCHACHNER (Harvard University):
All of the videos that looked like they were moving in synchrony with the beat were in animals that could imitate sound.

HIRSHON:
But she says non-mimics, such as dogs, showed no sign of staying on the beat. And lab studies confirmed that some parrots, which are vocal mimics, can keep time with the music. This suggests that dance in humans might have emerged as a by-product of our own mimicry skills. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.