Saturday, May 09, 2009

what does it mean?

NPR | Dancers Are Vocal Mimics

Schachner says the important thing is that, like humans — and unlike dogs or cats — parrots and elephants are both known to be vocal mimics. They can imitate sounds. "And that's really striking," she says.

It means dancing may be a byproduct of an ability that evolved for vocal imitation and vocal learning. After all, to mimic a sound, you have to listen to it and its rhythm and then use that information to coordinate movement — to shape the way you move your lips and tongue.

All of these findings have convinced Tecumseh Fitch, an evolutionary biologist at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland who is interested in the origin of music.

"The capacity to extract a beat from sound and move your body to it was, until these papers, believed to be uniquely human," he says, adding that if parrots can really dance, all kinds of new experiments are now possible.

"For example, what genes are turned on while a bird is dancing?" wonders Fitch. "What genes are turned on by listening to a beat, versus listening to sounds that don't have a beat?"

And what would happen if a bird never heard any music for the first few years of its life? Could it still dance later on? That would be an interesting study, Fitch says, and one that could never be done on