Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Science of The Dancing Parrot

Article Written By: Kian Yousefi Kousha

 



It was August of 2007 when a parrot named Snowball was left at a rescue centre in Dyer, Indiana. Soon after, the parrot became a YouTube sensation because of its amazing dancing skills, catching the attention of millions, including neuroscientists.The concept of dancing as seen in humans cannot be seen in most species, but parrots are the exception. In fact, parrots and humans are the only species that connect with music by showing a variety of spontaneous movements. These movements might be due to the fact that parrots are vocal learners with auditory-motor connections in their nervous system.


So far, research has shown the synchrony between the music beat and a parrot’s head and/or feet movement. Researchers wanted to see more of Snowball so they exposed him to new music once in a while such that now, he has 14 diverse dance movements like swinging his head, making half circles, doing headbangs, etc.


Parrots can acquire these  movements through various ways, such as imitation or copying humans. If dancing by imitation is the case, it is interesting to note that parrots might realize and distinguish the difference in body shapes between themselves and humans and still copy the motor movements of dance.
As well, dance movements might be a product of the parrots’ creativity. Animals other than humans usually show creativity upon a physical benefit like accessing food or mates. However, Snowball uses dancing to communicate with his human caregivers, without any food or mating opportunity present.


Read the full article by Atlantic here:
https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2019/07/what-snowball-dancing-parrot-tells-us-about-dance/593428/

Read the full research paper by Current Biology here:
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0960982219306049

Image Credit: Atlantic

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