Spontaneous motor entrainment to music in multiple vocal mimicking species.
The human capacity for music consists of certain core phenomena, including the tendency to entrain, or align movement, to an external auditory pulse [1-3]. This ability, fundamental both for music production and for coordinated dance, has been repeatedly highlighted as uniquely human [4-11]. However, it has recently been hypothesized that entrainment evolved as a by-product of vocal mimicry, generating the strong prediction that only vocal mimicking animals may be able to entrain [12, 13]. Here we provide comparative data demonstrating the existence of two proficient vocal mimicking nonhuman animals (parrots) that entrain to music, spontaneously producing synchronized movements resembling human dance. We also provide an extensive comparative data set from a global video database systematically analyzed for evidence of entrainment in hundreds of species both capable and incapable of vocal mimicry. Despite the higher representation of vocal nonmimics in the database and comparable exposure of mimics and nonmimics to humans and music, only vocal mimics showed evidence of entrainment. We conclude that entrainment is not unique to humans and that the distribution of entrainment across species supports the hypothesis that entrainment evolved as a by-product of selection for vocal mimicry.