Tuesday, 22 May, 2018

On the talking whale

Killer whale learns to imitate human speech in world first Orcas can imitate human speech, research reveals
Guillermo Lane | 01 February, 2018, 00:38

Another standout copycat, the lyrebird, mimics not only other animals, but also the sounds of construction equipment and vehicle horns, demonstrating its prowess in the 2009 documentary series "BBC Earth". Researchers say it sheds light on how killer whales are able to develop pod-specific dialects, and to communicate cooperative strategies that can be employed while hunting.

Researchers have taught an orca, also known as a killer whale, to imitate human speech sounds. Her two trainers judged her success and then confirmed the final conclusion. Here we use a do-as-I-do paradigm to study the abilities of a killer whale to imitate novel sounds uttered by conspecific (vocal imitative learning) and human models (vocal mimicry).

The 16-year-old female orca uses her blowhole to say words. It also makes them a popular marine park attraction since they can be trained, although this practice is highly controversial, since orcas are very social animals.

Finally, Wikie was exposed to a human making three of the orca sounds, as well as six human sounds, including "hello", "Amy", "ah ha", "one, two" and "bye bye".

The truly impressive aspect of the results, according to the researchers, is that the morphology of orcas is vastly different than humans, yet they can still produce sounds that mimic our language.

Vocal imitation is a hallmark of human spoken language, which, along with other advanced cognitive skills, has fuelled the evolution of human culture.

California teacher put on administrative leave following anti-military tirade
One referenced the relative proximity of Camp Pendleton, a Marine Corps base located about two hours away from Pico Rivera. Aside from his Council duties, Councilmember Salcido serves as a member of the History and Heritage Society Committee.


Abramson added that Wikie might even be able to hold basic conversations in the future.

"You can not pick a word that is very complicated because then I think you are asking too much - we wanted things that were short but were also distinctive", said Call. And since this was just the one whale, the researchers are unsure whether there are more copy-cat killer whales in the wild.

"But you have to be careful about imposing our human concepts on animals".

When housed with bottlenose dolphins for a period of three years, three orcas' vocalizations changed to more closely match those of the dolphins, including dolphin vocalizations such as click trains and whistles.

They eat marine mammals such as seals, sea lions, and even whales, and are known to grab seals right off the ice. The polka-dot wasp moth mimics the warning thrum produced by a bad-tasting moth species, to protect itself from predators, scientists reported in May 2007, in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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