Pet Scoop: Sea Lion Bops to the Beat, Rare Giraffe Named to Honor Newtown Victims

April 2, 2013: We've scoured the Web to find the best and most compelling animal stories, videos and photos. And it's all right here.

Ronan trains with lead researcher Peter Cook.
Ronan trains with lead researcher Peter Cook.

Study Challenges Rhythm Theory

A new study challenges the idea that you have to be a human — or a parrot — to keep the beat. Meet Ronan, a sea lion at the University of California-Santa Cruz, who’s the first non-human mammal to show evidence of rhythmic ability. Ronan challenges the theory that the ability to move to a beat is tied to the ability for vocal learning or vocal mimicry, as researchers thought was the case for some dancing birds. Peter Cook, a graduate student in psychology at UC-Santa Cruz, trained Ronan to bob her head in tune with a variety of music. Her favorite seems to be “Boogie Wonderland.” "The fact that we showed Ronan could do it means that there's a raw capability in sea lions," Cook, who was the study’s lead researcher, told NBC News. "Ronan's success poses a real problem for the theory that vocal mimicry is a necessary precondition for rhythmic entrainment." Cook’s experiments appeared in the Journal of Comparative Psychology. — Watch it at UC-Santa Cruz

The Cicadas Are Coming

After 17 years of living underground, a large group of periodical cicadas are getting ready to appear along the East Coast, from North Carolina to Connecticut. The insects spend their lives underground, living off of fluids that they suck from the roots of trees and shrubs. Then, they come out of the ground, breed (and make a racket with their loud chirping sounds) and die off, while their offspring head back underground. Depending on the population, the cicadas emerge to look for a mate every 13 or 17 years. The group that’s expected this May is the offspring of cicadas last seen in 1996. — Read it at National Geographic News

Celebrity Gorilla Dies at 40

The beloved Pattycake, the first gorilla born in New York City, has died at the Bronx Zoo. The subject of two books, Pattycake was born at the Central Park Zoo in 1972 and moved to the Bronx Zoo when she was 11 years old. There, Pattycake gave birth to 10 infants, who now live in zoos all over the country. "Millions of children in New York City grew up with Pattycake at the Bronx Zoo," said Jim Breheny, the zoo’s director. "Pattycake was a very special animal and her presence will be deeply missed." — Read it from the AP via Yahoo News

Baby Sandy Hope gets a kiss from her mom, Petal.
Baby Sandy Hope gets a kiss from her mom, Petal.

Calf's New Name Announced

Last week, we told you about the birth of a rare Rothschild giraffe at the LEO Zoological Conservation Center in Connecticut. Now, the adorable calf has been given a name with special meaning for her home state: Sandy Hope, in reference to the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December. The calf’s name was announced after the center received 7,000 name suggestions from the public. The center isn’t open to the public, but its directors plan to make special arrangements for the families that were directly affected by the tragedy to visit so they can meet Sandy. — Read it at Today

International Cat Video Film Festival Expands to N.Y.

For its first event last year, the cat video film festival drew 10,000 people to the Walker art museum’s Open Field in Minnesota. Now, like the best viral kitty videos, it’s taking off. For its second annual event, the festival will add a second location, at the Warsaw in Brooklyn, N.Y. The celebration of the cats of the Internet doesn’t take place until October, but nominations for the best videos must be in by May 1 — so get those cameras rolling! — Read it at Gothamist


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