Killer whale learns to mimicing words

Killer whale learns to mimicing words

The orca speech is the equivalent of us blowing our noses, so the fact that Wikie was able to mimic human words with such accuracy is an interesting phenomenon.

Scientists have found a killer whale in France capable of imitating the sounds of other orcas as well as human speech, including the words "hello", "Amy", and "bye bye". She was also trained to mimic noises such as a creaking door and a raspberry.

The ability of this orca to produce human sounds is especially significant due to the species' anatomy. They may copy other members of their kind in the wild, although this needs to be tested.

How does a killer whale learn to talk?

Griffin was not involved in the recent study. Each pod produces unique calls, and this research reveals that these vocalizations are passed down through learning, rather than being a genetic trait.

Wikie, a 14-year-old female killer whale housed at Marineland Aquarium in Antibes, France, was tested by researchers including José Z. Abramson to get her to speak.

The study also showed the animal was able to copy unfamiliar sounds produced by other orcas. Previous sessions with Wikie had already trained her to respond to a "do this" command for a fish reward, the study authors reported. Then they introduced human sounds, like "hello", "ah ah" (laughter) and "bye-bye".

A killer whale living in captivity has surprised scientists by allegedly learning to "speak" human words through its blowhole.

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The researchers taught the orcas to copy orca commands, which they did easily. She successfully reproduced some sounds - such as the phrases "hello" and "one, two, three" - on her first attempt. Overall, the imitations were not as clear as one would expect from a parrot, but they were recognizable.

But it does show, once more, that orcas are very smart animals indeed, he added.

A trainer works with Wikie (left) alongside the orca's calf, Moana.

Previously killer whales have been observed mimicking the barks of sea lions and the whistles of sea dolphins and beluga whales have been filmed apparently imitating humans, but until now no controlled experiments have been carried out to verify the reports.

"We wanted to see how flexible a killer whale can be in copying sounds", said Josep Call, professor in evolutionary origins of mind at the University of St Andrews and a co-author of the study. It is for the first time that a mammal has been able to copy human words.

I've never been 100% sure which species was going to rise up and overthrow us as revenge for our frightful mistreatment of the planet and all life on it, but I can't say I'm surprised to learn that it's going to be the humble killer whale. Like several species of birds and mammals, orcas learn to make sounds based on the sounds that they hear from others.

"Koshik mainly seems to be using these vocalizations as a way of bonding with people, rather than for their meaning", Stoeger-Horwath said. The new results show that orcas not only have different dialects between pods, but they have the incredible ability to learn to imitate sounds wherever they hear them.

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