Can Animals Dance?

Andrew Sullivan —  Nov 13 2012 @ 3:02pm

Yes, but it's mostly limited to parrots. Researchers first tested the famous cockatoo, Snowball, which can be seen dancing here:

Patel took one of the tunes that Snowball was familiar with, a Backstreet Boys song called Everybody, and modified it so that the tempo could be sped up or slowed down from 86 to 130 beats per minute, without altering the song's pitch. The researchers took video recordings of the bird's movements while the songs were playing. After analysing their videos, they found that Snowball's dance steps were synchronized to the music. The parrot had moves, after all.

Was Snowball an oddball, or is dancing widespread elsewhere in the animal kingdom? A second group of researchers ploughed through YouTube in search of data, and wound up with 1,019 uploaded videos that claimed to show non-human animals dancing. After a careful analysis, the researchers were left with evidence of dancing in fifteen species. Fourteen of those were, like Snowball, different kinds of parrot. The fifteenth example was an Asian elephant.

The reason? Parrots, humans, and elephants "are all vocal learners, meaning they can change the composition of the sounds they make, by changing pitch or the order of a song, for example."

(Video: A remix of a mega-popular Youtube by another agile parrot, Frostie)