World Media

Dance moves not unique to humans

Snowball the dancing cockatoo is back—with a whole new set of moves

"For the first half, Snowball struggled to find a dance that would fit", Schulz, who is also a co-author of a new study on the bird, told The Atlantic, "but about halfway through, he found moves that would work". It's a finding that supports the idea that "dancing is not just purely a product of human cultural invention, it's a response to music that arises when certain cognitive and neural capacities come together in an animal brain", says Patel.

But after spending a decade studying his wide repertoire of bangs, hops and lifts, researchers suggest that parrots and humans share a tendency to dance when the music moves them.

The scientists found that Snowball has 14 distinct dance moves and two composite moves, more than one might see at an awkward middle-school dance. She analyzed videos of Snowball dancing to Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust" and "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" by Cyndi Lauper.

Although animals can be trained to perform dance-like movements, Snowball was never explicitly trained to make specific movements to music, the study said.

'Snowball does not dance for food or in order to mate; instead, his dancing appears to be a social behaviour used to interact with human caregivers (his surrogate flock)'.

Bobbing his head and tapping his feet, Snowball wouldn't look out of place on any wedding dance floor.

Their study titled, "Spontaneity and diversity of movement to music are not uniquely human", was published Monday in the journal Current Biology.

You might know Snowball from a YouTube video in which he dances to "Everybody" by 90s boy band Backstreet Boys, or perhaps his appearance on The Late Show featuring his owner and scientist Irena Schulz.

There may be other parrots or cockatoos out there that are able to dance just like Snowball, but none that have yet been studied. They bob their heads and lift their feet in rhythm to musical beats. "The authors also mention that the new moves were not well synchronized with the music". They played each of the tunes for him three times for a total of 23 minutes.

Based on their research, thestudy authors suggest five key underlying traits in animals that might enable them to dance. "His movements to music are amazingly diverse", Patel said. "People are fine listening to music on their own, but when it comes to dancing, people want to do that with friends rather than put music on in their living room and dance by themselves".

The real kicker is that his owner admits to having a very limited repertoire - "nodding her head and waving her arms" - so Snowball is probably inventing the moves himself.

But nearly nothing - not the dogs and cats we share our homes with, nor the apes and monkeys who are our closest genetic relatives - could do what Snowball does.

Snowball seems to be showing that cutting a rug and getting creative with it isn't just for people. It's a dancing cockatoo!

Snowball isn't the first parrot to move to the music, but there has been uncertainty about how such moves are acquired. "It's either imitation, which is sophisticated enough or it's actual creativity, which is incredibly interesting".