This Cockatoo Is The First Animal Proven To Know How To Dance

This handout from Irena Schulz at the Bird Lovers Only Rescue Service Inc. shows Snowball the dancing cockatoo lifting a foot as

This handout from Irena Schulz at the Bird Lovers Only Rescue Service Inc. shows Snowball the dancing cockatoo lifting a foot as

"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". But Snowball, researchers found, dances similarly to humans in that he does so in a way that is both "spontaneous and diverse" in response to music.

Snowball, a sulphur-crested cockatoo, has some pretty sweet dance moves.

To take a scientific look at Snowball's movements, the team filmed him dancing to Another One Bites the Dust by Queen and Cyndi Lauper's Girls Just Wanna Have Fun. In performances conducted from the back of an armchair, Snowball pulled 14 distinct moves - a repertoire that would put many humans to shame. Snowball's skills included a body roll, head bobs, foot lifts, head banging and a move reminiscent of Madonna's '90s Vogue dance craze.

"What's most interesting to us is the sheer diversity of his movements to music", said the study's senior author Aniruddh Patel, a psychologist at Tufts University and Harvard University.

Ever the entertainer, Snowball performed 14 unique dances when prompted by music, according to findings published Monday in Current Biology. Now it seems their talents include dancing as well.

The diversity of movement could also mean the birds are capable of creativity unique from other living things and even other birds: While most animal creativity derives from a need to obtain an immediate physical benefit, like food or a mate, Snowball danced to interact with his "surrogate flock" of human caregivers and reinforce social bonds, researchers said. He contacted Irena Schulz, who owned the bird shelter where Snowball lived, and with her soon launched a study of Snowball's dancing prowess. Patel says they are now analyzing data from an experiment created to find out whether the same is true of Snowball.

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Scientists say Snowball wasn't performing to get a reward; rather he was dancing just to dance.

"He seemed to be experimenting with new moves, and so we made a decision to try and study that properly because that was the second interesting parallel to humans". The team played each song three times, for a total of 23 minutes of music overall. Parrots and humans are vocal learners that can imitate and learn complex, sequences of movements.

Carel ten Cate, Professor of Animal Behavior at the Institute of Biology Leiden, Leiden University, who was not involved in the research, asked whether Schulz's verbal encouragement was given at moments that Snowball happened to make random movements, and might have unwittingly reinforced that move.

"Here, we're looking at highly complex movements, many of which are not part of natural parrot behaviour", Patel told AFP, adding that this suggests cognitive planning of actions and the willingness to choose between alternatives to respond to a stimulus.

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.

"Snowball developed those moves - much richer than the head bobbing and foot lifting we'd studied before - without any training". It's a dancing cockatoo!

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