Researchers say that Ronan was an obvious choice for the project.
"From my first interactions with her, it was clear that Ronan was a particularly bright sea lion," said Peter Cook, a graduate student in psychology at UC Santa Cruz and first author of the study, published in the Journal of Comparative Psychology. "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."
But Ronan isn't the only one who can keep time, according to the research. For their next project, the scientists are scouring the rest of the animal kingdom, searching for the brain mechanisms needed for beat keeping, which they say are likely widespread.
"Human musical ability may in fact have foundations that are shared with animals," Cook said. "People have assumed that animals lack these abilities. In some cases, people just hadn't looked."