Santa Cruz's Disco Sea Lion


I found this video Monday when my friend Doug Ross posted it on Facebook.

He included this typically dry statement with his post: "Studies show Sea Lions have more rhythm than I do." And sure enough, as you can see, the video shows a sea lion named Ronan, at the UC Santa Cruz Pinniped Cognition and Sensory Systems Laboratory, bobbing its head energetically to a disco beat.

Below the vid, Doug commented on his own post: "UCSC credibility not helped by publishing results on April 1st."

When I watched it I was certain it was an elaborate hoax. And a hilarious hoax at that. It helps that the sea lion is dancing to Earth, Wind and Fire's "Boogie Wonderland." Watching a sea creature dance to a '70s disco tune is good entertainment.

Later, when Peter Cook, a young graduate student in marine biology, tells the story of how he and his colleagues trained Ronan—while we spy on the sea lion through a knot-hole in a wooden fence (!)—the video takes on a distinctly mockumentary feel.

When I read the article about Ronan the Dancing Sea Lion in the Sentinel Tuesday I couldn't decide if reporter Callum Beals was duped or was in on the hoax. As an altweekly editor I participated in a number of April Fools hoaxes. So did Traci, including this one written by our friend Jessica Lussenhop—which happens to be a hilarious sea lion April Fools hoax article (!). I thought maybe the Sentinel was doing it too.

Come to think of it, I also once wrote an April Fools hoax story featuring dancing sea creatures. (They appear toward the bottom of the article, most of which is only hilarious to those very familiar with Monterey County).

Doug has since informed me that, no, the video and the article are not a joke. A devoted student of marine science and an artist who features sea mammals in a lot if his work, Doug is also a longtime committed volunteer with the Marine Mammal Center's Rescue Network. I had proved that he was correct about the poor timing of UCSC's announcement.

Doug later posted another video to Facebook, suggesting that Ronan might not really be the world's first dancing seal.

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Another cool critter video: Mother Peregrine falcon feeds her brand-new chicks atop San Jose City Hall.