Tuesday, December 14, 2010

egg on your face

Feb ’09 I was writing about Oliver Sacks’ Musicophilia, and noted with contempt the writer’s notion that only human beings have a sense of rhythm. As I said at the time, “all it takes is one ‘single report’ and you got egg on your face.”

That spring I came across
an NPR story
about animals groovin’. As I speculated in my February post, if any animal should have a sense of rhythm wouldn’t it be one that sings, maybe a bird? And now I see that researchers have found birds who dance. 14 species of parrots, at least. And, contra the expert Sacks quotes in his book, some elephants. They found these dancers, how? Through watching youtube videos!

Interestingly , Aniruddh Patel, the very scientist Sacks quotes categorically denying any animal the ability to shimmy to the beat, is quoted in the NPR story. “’ This is potentially scientifically very important,’” Patel says.

Follow the link and watch some birds shakin’ tail. It’s cute. And less than three minutes.


Dave King said...

Unbelievable, some of the stuff that gets believed!

Art Durkee said...

I always laugh when I read some opinion so humanocentric. First it's that only humans make music, then only humans dance, then only humans make art, then only humans have emotions.

Every single one of those notions has been disproved, numerous times, in more than one book or study I can cite. There are several books, and a couple of CDs now, on elephants having emotions and intelligence we can recognize, and on their music-making. "The Thai Elephant Orchestra" is a great CD.

Sacks usually gets things right. This time was a clear mistake, though. But then, even most generalists don't have their fingers on ALL the research.

Glenn Ingersoll said...

Only humans want to claim that only humans do something or other. Such chauvinism hasn't occurred to any other species, studies have shown.