Watching a dog play music is pure entertainment, and yet it’s so much more. In science it can be said that animals can keep a beat by having the ability to pick up movement in external rhythms. YouTube sensation Snowball the Cockatoo demonstrated the bird rhythm and showed that this talent does not only apply to humans.
Scientists initially hypothesized that only animals that are capable of voice mimicry or complex voice learning can keep a beat. This suggested that perhaps both skills are based on the same neural mechanisms, but further studies disproved that idea.
Sea lions do not learn complex vocalizations, and they are not vowel mimickers, but a California sea lion named Ronan displays an enviable level of rhythm. Ronan was trained to move her head to repetitive, regular sounds that resemble a metronome in exchange for fish, and was able to apply this knowledge to novel rhythms, including highly complex music. Scientists varied the music and found that within a few beats of a disturbance in tempo, Ronan found the beat again.