Listen, this orca is saying "hello."
Listen, this orca is saying "hello."
Orcas also do a good job of imitating new sounds

here is an audio clip of orcas imitating human voices. The part marked "Orca" comes from a female killer whale named Wikie, while the part of Human is the voice of a human experimenter.

this audio is from a recently published study. Orcas are trained to imitate human voices because researchers want to test the animal's ability to imitate sounds. The ability to imitate and learn a variety of pronunciations is important for human language communication, and the researchers believe the same is true for orcas. Like humans, orcas communicate by sound, except in a somewhat different way:

makes sound by controlling the vibration of the air in the nasal cavity. There are a variety of unique "dialect" features in the orca population, and the ability to learn to imitate new sounds can help them communicate better with each other.

in this study, orcas were first trained to understand a gesture that stands for "imitating me". Next, the researchers asked orcas to listen to a variety of voices from their own kind and humans. As a result, orcas can make recognizable imitations of these unfamiliar sounds in a relatively short period of time, although it sounds more magical when imitating human voices. Considering the differences in the structure of vocal organs, it should be said that she has done a very good job.

this is an interesting study, but in a sense it is also ironic: people learn about their "language ability" through the orcas in the aquarium. and hope to learn more about the "cultural exchange" of orcas in nature, but the orcas live in an environment isolated from the group and have no chance to really communicate richly with their own kind.

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the 16-year-old orca Wikie has lived in an artificial environment since birth, and she may have to continue to live in an aquarium, but researchers agree that humans should at least stop catching new orcas. It is also hoped that these studies will be of some help in protecting orcas in the wild.