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A Sea Lion that Dances to the Backstreet Boys

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By Chris Gayomali

Some birds—like this inexplicable, Lady Gaga-loving Cockatoo—have shown that animals can indeed follow a beat. They can bob their heads and "dance." But outside of a few mimetic parrots, few creatures (including me) have demonstrated any skill whatsoever moving in an aesthetically pleasing manner to a basic 4/4 rhythm. At least until now.

Meet Ronan the sea lion. Psychologists at the University of California, Santa Cruz, say she's the first non-human mammal to show an affinity for—dramatic pause—the art of dance. (Watch below.)

"From my first interactions with her, it was clear that Ronan was a particularly bright sea lion," lead researcher Peter Cook, a psychology grad student at UC Santa Cruz, tells NBC News. "Everybody in the animal cognition world, including me, was intrigued by the dancing-bird studies, but I remember thinking that no one had attempted a strong effort to show beat-keeping in an animal other than a parrot." He adds: "I figured training a mammal to move in time to music would be hard, but Ronan seemed like an ideal subject."

For several months, Cook and his team spent their weekends working with Ronan to move her head in time to the music. (An arduous task that involved plenty of snacks and head-bobbing demonstrations, which you'll enjoy picturing in your head.) Over time, the talented sea lion learned to perfectly keep time to Earth Wind & Fire's "Boogie Wonderland" (Ronan's fave) and an indiscriminate Backstreet Boys song that isn't "I Want it That Way."

"The fact that we showed Ronan could do it means there's a raw capability in sea lions," says Cook. He hopes her online stardom will reveal other adorable animals who have the similar cognitive ability to maintain a funky beat. You know. For science.

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Animals
Why Male Hyenas Have It Worse Than Females
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A life of hunting zebras and raising young on the savanna isn’t half bad for a female hyena. Sadly, the same can’t be said for their male counterparts. As MinuteEarth explains, things take a downturn for the males of the species once they hit adolescence. No female in their pack will mate with them, a behavior scientists believe evolved to avoid inbreeding, so they head off in search of a different group to join. After dealing with vicious hazing from their new clan, they file in at the bottom of the rank and wait for other males above them to die so that they can slowly gain status.

Even after rising through the hierarchy, the most a male hyena can aspire to is being second place to the lowest-ranking female. Thanks to their bulky build and aggressive behavior, female hyenas enjoy a dominant position that’s rare in the animal kingdom.

After watching the video below, head over here for more facts about hyenas.

[h/t MinuteEarth]

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Art
A Beached Whale Sculpture Popped Up on the Banks of Paris's Seine River
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In Paris, dozens of fish varieties live in the Seine River. Now, the Associated Press reports that the famous waterway is home to a beached whale.

Rest assured, eco-warriors: The sperm whale is actually a lifelike sculpture, installed on an embankment next to Notre Dame Cathedral by Belgian artists’ collective Captain Boomer. It’s meant to raise environmental awareness, and evoke "the child in everyone who still is puzzled about what is real and what is not,” collective member Bart Van Peel told the Associated Press.

The 65-foot sculpture has reportedly startled and confused many Parisians, thanks in part to a team of fake scientists deployed to “survey” the whale. One collective member even posted a video on social media, warning Parisians that there “may be others in the water” if they opt to take a dip in the river, The Local reported.

The whale sculpture is only temporary—but as for Captain Boomer, this isn’t their first whale-related stunt. Last summer, the collective installed a similar riverside artwork in Rennes, France, and they also once strapped a large-scale whale sculpture to the back of a truck and drove it around France.

[h/t Associated Press]

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