For the first a time, an orca has been taught to mimic the sounds of human language by squeaking out noises that sounds like “hello, “bye bye”, and even “Amy”, the name of the whales’ trainer.
The killer whale, Wilkie, is a 14-year-old female orca held at the Marineland Aquarium in Antibes, France. The finding was published in the study Proceedings of the Royal Society B where researchers used her to test the killer whale’s ability to learn and imitate sounds, especially those made by human vocalization.
They began to start training Wilkie and shortly after, she was able to repeat a set of words said by her training.
The response did not happen immediately as it took numerous attempts to get the whale to repeat the noises but once the noises were being made, the researchers looked at the sound waves produced and they matched up very accurately to the words she was repeating. The recording can be seen below.
The findings continue to add further proof of killer whales intelligence. By their ability to demonstrate learning a complex vocalizations, Wilke showed that killer whales are flexible and open to imitating and learning.
This research will help scientists dive deeper into discovering more about how killer whales interact and communicate with each other in the wild. The whales are already well known for demonstrating their strategic methods to hunt prey.
Killer whales are not the only species capable of muttering noises that imitate human speech. Parrots, orangutans, and beluga whales have demonstrated their ability to pick up human words and repeat them back