Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Tessa. Tessa Wonders, “WHY DO WE LIKE ART? DO OTHER ANIMALS LIKE ART?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Tessa!

Do you have a favorite piece of art? Is there a painting or sculpture you love? Maybe you could listen to a certain song for hours. You might watch the same film over and over. Perhaps you even know a favorite poem by heart. 

Humans have long enjoyed and appreciated all of these forms of art. Of course, we all have personal preferences. But most people could name a piece of visual, musical, literary, or performance art they enjoy.

All this talk about art has us WONDERing . . . what about other animals? Do they like art? Maybe dogs enjoy impressionism while cats prefer self-portraits. Perhaps your goldfish loves to listen to rock and roll. A lizard may turn the dial to some jazz.

The answer is complicated. Some studies have shown that animals react to music and performance art. However, it’s difficult for researchers to know exactly what’s going on in an animal’s brain. 

Two studies have shown that fish can tell the difference between styles of music. Both koi fish and goldfish could pick out the tunes of Johann Sebastian Bach from those of other artists. However, experts can’t say whether the fish actually enjoy one type of music over another.

Despite this, many animals have taken part in the creation of art. One famous example is Koko the gorilla. She painted a bird complete with wings. Her gorilla friend, Michael also picked up the paintbrush. He created several paintings, including one of his dog, Apple.

Some zookeepers even offer painting as an enrichment activity for animals. These activities are meant to help animals’ brains grow and stay alert. They’re important, as days in captivity can be quite boring. Elephants, chimpanzees, seals, parrots, and many other animals have created their own art inside zoos.

Still, experts are unsure of the effect art has on the animals’ brains—and whether they enjoy it. Some individual animals certainly seem to like creating art. However, no larger studies have determined the general impact of art on animals.

Others ask a different question: Do animals have their own forms of art? After all, anyone who has listened to bird song would admit it’s music to the ears. Could it be that animals have been creating and enjoying their own art all along? Perhaps humans simply haven’t recognized it.

A prime example is the bowerbird, which lives in Australia and New Guinea. Male bowerbirds are known for building beautiful nests to attract a mate. They gather the most colorful leaves and stones they can find. The birds even use discarded pieces of plastic. Then, they use their own artistic flair to add these colorful items to the nest. There’s no denying a bowerbird nest is a work of art.

Could your pet create a masterpiece? Might there be more to the dawn chorus? Perhaps! It’s difficult to know for sure, but many animals do seem to enjoy creating art in their own way.

Standards: CCRA.R.4, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1,CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, NCAS.A.1, NCAS.A.2, NCAS.A.3, CCRA.W.2, CCRA.W.4, CCRA.W.10, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2

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