Orcas are able to imitate human speech. Here's how it sounds like

01 February, 2018, 01:04 | Author: Carmen Reese
  • The killer whale was able to mimic the duration and pitch of human speech coming close on three words to a ‘high-quality match’. File

"Interestingly, the mammals that can do best are marine mammals".

"I think here we have the first evidence that killer whales may be learning sounds by vocal imitation, and this is something that could be the basis of the dialects we observe in the wild - it is plausible", Call told The Guardian.

Previously, researchers found that the creatures are able to imitate the movements and behaviors of other orcas.

Killer whales both in the wild and in captivity have also been observed copying dolphin calls and the barks of sea lions. But these very clever animals are even more impressive than we thought.

That said, there is no reason why whales and dolphins can't learn to understand words and context - for instance dogs are good at understanding words, and attach meaning to what they hear. Researchers at the University of At.

The 14-year-old female named Wikie, housed in an aquarium in Antibes, was able to mimic words and make fart-like noises, according to a study published on Wednesday in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Here's what they sound like.

From the water, a high-pitched squeak calls out "hello" but the sound is not coming from a human, it's a whale. She even nailed a few on her first try, though one took as many as 17 attempts to get right. The last syllable sounds a bit like a "raspberry" - that sound of contempt humans make by pushing the tongue between the lips and forcibly expelling air to produce a vibration.

"We wanted to study vocal imitation because it's a hallmark of human spoken language, which is in turn important for human cultural evolution", said José Zamorano-Abramson, who led the study as a postdoctoral researcher at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile.

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The scientists compared the original sounds with the help of a computer algorithm called dynamic time warping (DTW).

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 rate of successful "pronunciation" also varied.

A new experiment was carried out in which Wikie was trained in a way that she could understand the signal when she had to mimic and her trainer invited and gave her 11 new sounds like howling of a wolf, elephant call and a creaking door.

Parrots, covids, and other birds are known to "parrot" speech back to humans, but the orca whale Wikie has become one of the first mammals to do the same. Examples include orangutans, dolphins, and, of course, parrots.

Orcas are not the only masters of mimicry in the animal kingdom. Despite possessing a strikingly different morphology from humans, it can still produce sounds that are similar to those produced by another species, in this case, like us.

The star of this latest study, Wikie had already been trained to respond to a "copy" command as part of previous research into imitative learning in orcas. There is no evidence that suggests this, in any case.



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