This killer whale imitates human words - hear him speak here

01 February, 2018, 01:05 | Author: Bertha Harmon
  • Killer whale learns to imitate human speech in world first

A high-pitched and eerie voice uttering the name "Amy" is quite clear in the audio released by the study's researchers.

Image: Killer whales have previously been recorded copying dolphin calls.

However, the killer whale is impressive in reproducing the sounds, even though an orca's vocal anatomy is different from that of humans.

"In mammals it is very rare", said Dr Josep Call of the University of St Andrews, a co-researcher on the study.

Call said that their team thought it would be really convincing to present killer whales with something that is not in their repertoire - and in this case, "hello" is not what a killer whale would say.

Scientists in their earlier experiments had learnt the ocra's ability to copy movements of other species and mimic sounds of bottlenose dolphins and sea lions.

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A beluga whale has also been observed learning to "speak dolphin", in a case described just a year ago.

Then, the scientists compared her calls with the original sounds using dynamic time warping (DTW), an algorithm that maps two linear sequences, calculating where they match.

'We will gain more if we try to understand the natural way each species communicates in its own environment than if we try to teach a human language.

In research published today in the journal The Proceedings of the Royal Society B, scientists at the Complutense University of Madrid tested two orcas, a female named Wikie and her calf Moana.

She can be heard copying a human trainer in recordings made at Marineland in Antibes, France.

Killer whales can learn to mimic human speech, a new study has found. Then Wikie was exposed to five orca sounds she had never heard before.

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In their paper, a team of researchers led by Jose Abramson of the Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile, in Santiago, Chile, describe exposing Wikie to 11 novel sounds, some human and some not, and asking her to repeat them. Comparative evidence has revealed that although the ability to copy sounds from conspecifics is mostly uniquely human among primates, a few distantly related taxa of birds and mammals have also independently evolved this capacity.

The ability of this orca to produce human sounds is especially significant due to the species' anatomy.

The matching was further backed up through an analysis of various acoustic features from the recordings of Wikie's sounds. They travel in close-knit groups called pods, usually comprised of 5-30 individuals, although occasionally some pods can number over 100 orcas.

In the wild, it has been found that different killer whale pods use unique vocal dialects.

The killer whale that we studied in captivity was capable of learning vocalisations of other killer whales and also human vocalisations by imitating them, therefore this result suggests this is also a plausible explanation for how killer whales in the wild learn the vocalisations of other killer whales and how they develop their dialects.

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