Orca Learns to Say 'Hello'

01 February, 2018, 01:03 | Author: Tracy Craig
  • File 20180130 107676

The study was the first of its kind that attempted to get an orca to mimic human sounds.

The animal's repertoire includes the name "Amy" and "one, two, three".

Another viewer said it reminded him of The Phantom Raspberry Blower of Old London Town, a sketch made famous in BBC comedy The Two Ronnies in 1976.

And in 2006, scientists reported in the journal Biology Letters that a killer whale in Nootka Sound, British Columbia, could imitate a sea lion's bark - likely because the orca was solitary "and striving for attention", said Griffin, one of the researchers who analyzed those calls. "Humans obviously are good at it but, interestingly, the mammals that can do best are marine mammals".

Scientists have taught a killer whale to imitate human speech, in a new study released on January 31. 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.

Scientists have hypothesized that these conditions are what led certain cetaceans to have vocal-learning skills relatively unique in the animal kingdom: they have above-average control of the sounds they make to accommodate these different water pressures.

"The evidence that killer whales can show vocal learning provides us with a missing piece of understanding about their lives in the wild", Rendell wrote.

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"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. Each time the whale's response was measured with forensic acoustic analysis and Wilkie was reportedly often found to repeat the sound back on the first try. Call explained that dolphins and beluga whales have been known to copy sounds from other species while some birds, like parrots for example, are known to mimic sounds.

Dr Jose Abramson, from Complutense de Madrid University in Spain, said: "Yes, it's conceivable ... if you have labels, descriptions of what things are".

"Machiavellian behaviour, making friends, belonging to groups, manipulating others and competing - you don't need hands for that", he said.

"You have to be careful about imposing our human concepts on animals". Wikie successfully copied all of the sounds, the researchers found, though some took longer to learn than others.

The sounds that come through her blowhole are not a ideal imitation but are still very recognizable. 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.

A killer whale named Wikie has started "talking" human language. After the release of the documentary "Blackfish", the keeping of killer whales in captivity has come under increasing scrutiny, and the park has faced criticism following deaths of some of its orcas. The researchers taught her to "speak" by using a "copy" command that she had learned previously, though it had always been used to indicate that she should imitate physical actions, not sounds.

Follow Helen on Twitter.

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