Beluga whale learned to imitate human speech


23/10/2012

In captive mammals of the suborder of toothed whales learned to reproduce human speech.

"Who told me to get out?" - Asked the diver is in the tank with the whale named Nok. Sponsoring beluga staff and have never once heard snippets of phrases coming from the barricades, but only now they have realized that this whale could learn to imitate the voices of people who work with him.

This case, described today in the journal Current Biology, occurred in 1984 and lasted about four years, as long as Nock has not reached sexual maturity, as told Sam Ridgway, a marine biologist at the National Marine Mammal Foundation in San Diego, California. He believes that he has learned to imitate Nok people, listening to them talk underwater and on the surface.

It was not the first case of vocal mimicry cetaceans. In the 1940s, scientists heard the wild beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas) reproduce sounds similar to the "children’s voices in the distance." Decades later, the rangers Vancouver Aquarium in Canada, described how the whale uttered his name, Lagos.

Coaching Knock ’speak’ on command, Ridgway found that this animal reproduces the sounds of increasing the pressure of air passing by modifying the sound by changing the form of phonic lips, small vibrating structures located above each nasal cavity.

"We are not saying that the whales are as good imitators, like parrots," but it is nevertheless an example of vocal learning, conclude the authors. "In all likelihood, dense Nock communication with people, plays a pivotal role in the development of language skills, as well as in the growth of its quality."

Andy Foote, a marine ecologist at the University of Copenhagen, who studied vocal training of killer whales, agreed that the appeals Nock sound humanly. Beluga whales have acquired a reputation of "sea canaries" because of the wide range of their vocal abilities.

Original: Nature.com


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