Beluga Whale ‘Makes Human-Like Sounds’
Researchers in the U.S. have been shocked to discover a beluga whale whose vocalizations 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.
“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.”