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January 4, 1999

Long Marine Lab's sea lions to star in 'Animal Einsteins' television program

By Tim Stephens

Rocky and Rio, the trained sea lions at UCSC's Long Marine Laboratory, have for years impressed both the scientists who study them and visitors to the lab with their remarkable cognitive abilities. Now they are about to reach an even wider audience by appearing on a TV program called "Animal Einsteins," which explores how animals think and learn.

Rio, a California sea lion, aces another exam that tests her cognitive skills (larger photo)

"Animal Einsteins," hosted by Alan Alda, will air on most PBS stations on January 20 at 8 p.m. It is the first show of 1999 in a series of educational science specials called Scientific American Frontiers.

In addition to Rocky and Rio, the show will also feature a pig, a parrot, chimpanzees, and other animals whose mental abilities are being studied by leading researchers around the country.

Ronald Schusterman, adjunct professor of biology and ocean sciences, and his team at Long Marine Lab have trained Rocky and Rio to recognize sign language, match pairs of pictures, and master other skills that demonstrate their perceptual and cognitive abilities. On "Animal Einsteins," Rocky shows off her facility with sign language, while Rio demonstrates her command of basic logic.

After the show airs, viewers will be able to interact with the scientists involved through an "Ask the Scientist" section on the program's Web site. Schusterman will be available to answer questions about sea lion communication.

Read more about Rocky, Rio, and Long Marine Lab's pinniped research

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