Tuesday, 21 August, 2018

On the talking whale

Wikie  a 16-year-old female orca in a French marine theme park is able to copy words such as ‘hello’ ‘bye bye’ and ‘Amy’ as well as count to three. The sounds emerge as parrot-like squawks shrill whistles or raspberries but most On the talking whale
| 01 February, 2018, 01:08

The people hearing to the highly-pitche distinct sound of voice clearly heard Wikie calling "Amy".

Abramson agrees that new killer whales should not be captured, but noted that those already in captivity would not fare well in the wild.

Wikie, a 16-year-old female orca living in a French marine theme park, has been recorded copying words such as "hello" and "Amy", as well as counting "one, two, three". The match was also confirmed by blindfolded judges who had to listen to original and orca-produced audio samples and then decide whether the pairs sounded similar.

The team says this display of imitation helps explain how pods of wild killer whales create their own dialect, and how captive whales change their calls to fit in with their new group when moved to different locations.

"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 Josep Call, professor in evolutionary origins of mind at the University of St Andrews and study co-author. "We thought what would be really convincing is to present them with something that is not in their repertoire - and in this case "hello" [is] not what a killer whale would say". Noc, the beluga whale, made novel use of his nasal cavities, while Koshik, an Indian elephant jammed his trunk in his mouth, resulting in the pronouncement of Korean words ranging from "hello" to "sit down" and "no".

The scientist further added that only a fraction of the animal kingdom can mimic human speech, with brain pathways and vocal apparatus.

They eat marine mammals such as seals, sea lions, and even whales, and are known to grab seals right off the ice.


The experiment was designed in such a way that no meaning or context was attached to any of the words.

I've never been 100% sure which species was going to rise up and overthrow us as revenge for our awful 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.

The sounds made by Wikie are parrot-like noises as well as shrill whistles through her blowhole. "But if you learn from the experience of the others it's more safe", said Abramson.

The experiments are reported in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B.

Imitating vocal sounds in this way is a key component of language, and the ability to do so is rare in mammals besides humans. She was then exposed to five different orca sounds that were unfamiliar to her. 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.

A new report shows the finding of researchers attempting to teach killer whales mimic human sounds, and yes, even speak. Using both live interactions and recordings, she usually learned to repeat a word, phrase or sound within 10 attempts.

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