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Researchers in the US have been shocked to discover a beluga whale whose vocalisations were remarkably close to human speech.
While dolphins have been taught to mimic the pattern and durations of sounds in human speech, no animal has spontaneously tried such mimicry.
But researchers heard a nine-year-old whale named NOC make sounds octaves below normal, in clipped bursts.
The researchers outline in Current Biology just how NOC did it.
They found that vocal bursts averaged about three per second, with pauses reminiscent of human speech. Analysis of the recordings showed that the frequ
"Our observations suggest that the whale had to modify its vocal mechanics in order to make the speech-like sounds," said Sam Ridgway, president of the National Marine Mammal Foundation and lead author on the paper.
"The sounds we heard were clearly an example of vocal learning by the white whale."
A US Navy-trained beluga whale named NOC can imitate human speech. Wild belugas have long been informally called "sea canaries."
What makes you think it was trying to say anything? The article calls it mimicry...
NOC's vocalizations were recorded and studied by a team of biologists from the National Marine Mammal Foundation (NMMF) led by Sam Ridgway. In 1984, Ridgway and others at the NMMF began to hear peculiar sounds coming from the whale and dolphin enclosure.