i wasn't gonna buy just anyone's dancing cockatoo that is a backstreet boys fan (would you?)
A dancing cockatoo named Snowball is proof that humans aren't the only species with rhythm, a team of neuroscientists in California is reporting.
Snowball bobs his head and lifts his feet to songs from Queen and the Backstreet Boys and can keep time when the music is sped up or slowed down. The rocker bird offers clues about the evolution of the human capacity to make and enjoy music, say the researchers, who have published their findings in the journal Current Biology.
Until Snowball, it was widely believed that the ability to move in time to a beat was something uniquely human, says Aniruddh Patel, who studies music and the brain at the Neurosciences Institute in San Diego and who is lead author of the paper.
Other primates don't dance, and some scientists had theorized that dancing, or even foot tapping in time to a song, is a unique specialization of brains that evolved to recognize, produce and enjoy music. But the grooving cockatoo challenges that notion, Dr. Patel says.
“It favours the idea that music is an invention built from brain systems that have other day jobs. It's not that we have circuits in our brain that evolved for musical functions, but that we draw on other brain regions that perform other roles.”
Dr. Patel learned about Snowball in 2007, when someone sent him a link to a video of the bird dancing on the Web site of Bird Lovers Only Rescue Service in Indiana.
“I had never seen anything like it.”
He contacted Irena Schulz at the rescue service, and asked her if she wanted to collaborate. She agreed.
Snowball's previous owner, a retired steel worker and huge Backstreet Boys fan, left the bird because he could no longer cope with it. His daughter had left for college, Snowball missed her, and became increasingly difficult to manage.
Dr. Patel had interviewed the man, who said Snowball was about six years old when they bought him. He noticed the bird would bob his head in time to the Backstreet Boys. His daughter began dancing with the bird, which may be how Snowball learned to move his feet.
Dr. Patel and his colleagues put Snowball through his paces with music played at a variety of tempos to show that he was, in fact, moving to the music.
Dancing appears to be something Snowball picked up on his own, they say, not something he was trained to do.
“It is remarkable. This is not an animal that has trained the way you train an animal in the zoo or a circus … He developed this spontaneously,” Dr. Patel says...
- the globe and mail