JAN 31, 2018 05:16 PM PST

Listen to a Killer Whale Say "Hello"

There aren’t many animals on the planet capable of mimicking human speech, but new research published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B this week illuminates how killer whales might have their own spot on that extremely limited list.

Killer whales are intelligent creatures, and a new study suggests that they can mimic spoken words.

Image Credit: Pixabay

Meet Wikie, a 14-year-old killer whale from Marineland Aquarium in Antibes, France. Curious researchers interacted with Wikie in an attempt to learn more about how killer whales communicate. Astonishingly, Wikie learned very quickly to repeat words like “hello,” “Amy,” and “Bye” after her handler said them first.

These aren’t overly-complex words, and the orca didn’t mutter them as fluently as a human would, but it’s a start nevertheless. In fact, researchers think this data could help them understand how killer whales learn communication amongst one another in the wild.

Related: SeaWorld to pull the plug on California-based orca shows

You can listen to the imitations yourself via the embedded video below:

"The killer whale that we studied in captivity was capable of learning vocalizations of other killer whales and also human vocalizations by imitating them," noted study co-author Dr. Josep Call from the University of St. Andrews.

"Therefore, this result suggests this is also a plausible explanation for how killer whales in the wild learn the vocalizations of other killer whales and how they develop their dialects."

Related: This all-white orca re-appeared near Russia for the first time in 5 years

The sounds didn’t come from the killer whale’s mouth, but instead her blowhole. The entire vocalization system differs significantly from a human’s, so it’s no surprise that it sounded vastly different from a person talking.

If the study shows anything significant, it’s that Wikie heard her handler loud and clear and could repeat the spoken words accordingly. On the other hand, it doesn’t prove that she understood the words’ meanings, and she probably didn’t.

Unfortunately, researchers don’t know enough about what’s happening in Wikie’s mind when she imitates words, so it’s challenging to gauge her level of comprehension.

Additional research could determine whether this is a hidden talent of Wikie’s or if wild orcas exhibit similar abilities. For now, we’ll just have to wait and see.

Source: BBC, Phys.org

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
OCT 23, 2019
Microbiology
OCT 23, 2019
Harmful Algae Blooms Blamed for the Deaths of Several Pets
People and pet owners, especially in the Southeast but all across the nation are being warned to watch out for harmful algae blooms....
OCT 23, 2019
Earth & The Environment
OCT 23, 2019
On fire: the Amazon
In case you haven’t already heard, the Amazon is on fire. In fact, according to satellite data from the National Institute for Space Research (also k...
OCT 23, 2019
Plants & Animals
OCT 23, 2019
All Squirrels Enjoy Nuts, and Some Shamelessly Steal Them
It’s no secret that squirrels enjoy eating nuts, but a lesser known fact is that many of these cunning rodents also enjoy the thrill and easy reward...
OCT 23, 2019
Earth & The Environment
OCT 23, 2019
Massive Phytoplankton Bloom Resulted from Kilauea's Eruption
The 2018 eruption of Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano didn’t just change the lives of several hundred residents and the local landscape. It also had sh...
OCT 23, 2019
Health & Medicine
OCT 23, 2019
Emissions From Cannabis Growing Facilities Could Impact Air Quality
New research from the Desert Research Institute (DRI) and the Washoe County Health District (WCHD) shows that the same chemicals that are responsible for t...
OCT 23, 2019
Health & Medicine
OCT 23, 2019
Can Marijuana Help Chronic Migraines?
Migraines are not just headaches, but often debilitating disorders usually characterized by a unilateral hemi cranial pulsating headache, often accompanied...
Loading Comments...