Why Do Scientists Care About Whether Animals Can Dance?

The thing about dancing animals is that it's not just about adorable viral YouTube videos. By studying animals with rhythmic entrainment - that is, the ability to synchronize the movement of its own body with an external auditory stimulus - then we might be able to learn more about the evolution of language. That's because it's thought that vocal mimicry is a necessary precondition for dancing. Speech, after all, requires not just the cognitive components of language but also tight control over the muscles of the vocal tract. Which, when you think about it, is sort of similar to the way dancing works.

For more about dancing in the animal kingdom, see my BBC Future column, Uniquely Human: Are humans the only species that enjoy dancing?

And for more on the relationship between vocal learning and rhythmic entrainment, see these posts: Ronan the Sea Lion Dances To The Backstreet Boys. So What? and Ronan Fights Back! Scrappy Sea Lion Might Reclaim the Title of First Non-Human Mammal Dancer


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