A four-year-old sea lion named Ronan can do something that no mammal besides humans can do: listen to the Backstreet Boys and enjoy it. Okay so maybe not, but Ronan does nod along, which is a breakthrough discovery. According to student researcher Peter Cook, scientists previously believed that beat-keeping required the ability of vocal mimicry. As such, birds like parrots were able to “dance” along with certain noises or even songs. However, no other mammals besides humans were seen to display this ability.

Then comes in Ronan, who was rescued from the side of a Californian highway and now lives in a laboratory run by the University of California, Santa Cruz. There, researchers have managed to train her into responding to beats and eventually, lengthy and complex songs. Ronan’s ability now opens up new avenues of thought in rhythmic auditory research and animal psychology. Cook and his team published their findings in the Journal of Comparative Psychology on Monday, in which the sea lion plays a major role.

Ronan was just there for the music and food. Reportedly, she responds well to Earth, Wind & Fire, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Backstreet Boys.


Image screenshot of video by PinnipedLab on youtube

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