The idea that we humans have lots of unique abilities that animals lack has taken a battering in recent years – and now coming up with complex dance moves can be removed from the rapidly shrinking list. The cockatoo called Snowball has invented 14 different movements and even combines some of them.
Aniruddh Patel of Tufts University first investigated the talents of internet dance sensation Snowball back in 2009. By changing tempos, his team showed he really can dance in time to music.
After that study, Snowball’s owner Irena Schulz noticed Snowball was coming up with new dance movements. So the team filmed Snowball dancing to the 80s hits “Another one bites the dust” and “Girls just want to have fun”, and analysed his movements.
The team’s compilation video shows Snowball can do far more than just bob his head. His dance repertoire includes body rolls and foot lifts, and even foot lifts combined with head bangs.
(The compilation video has “Girls just want to have fun” as an added soundtrack rather than the music Snowball was actually grooving to at the time.)
The study shows that parrots can move to music using a wide variety of movements and body parts just like (some) people.
No animals are known to dance in response to a musical beat in the wild, though many birds sing as they perform complex courtship dances. Not even the drumming of male wild palm cockatoos gets the females dancing.
“What’s different about Snowball is that he is dancing to sounds he’s not making,” says Patel. “Also, unlike birds who vocalise and dance in the wild, he’s not doing it to get a mating opportunity.”
Journal reference: Current Biology, DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2009.03.038
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