A 14-year-old with a vocabulary comprising 4 to 5 rudimentary words won’t sound impressive. However, it definately is once the speaker is an orca, or killer, whale! The spectacular discovery, together with the recording within the vocalization, was unveiled in the January 31 study published from the journal Proceedings on the Royal Society B.
The research team, led by Jos Zamorano-Abramson, a postdoctoral researcher at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, began recording the 14-year mammal, who resides at Marineland in Antibes, France, in 2014. The experiment was conducted to examine the reasoning that killer whales learn sounds from social settings. Wikie, who may have spent most of her lifetime in the aquatic park, is accustomed to mimicking her trainer’s actions in exchange for fish, and was, therefore, the best candidate for the task.
The team began by presenting Wikie while using the sounds she has been familiar with – similar to a noisy breath or maybe a piercing peeping sound. They introduced new sounds the mammal had never been exposed to before. Such as mimicking the squeak of a creaky door plus the sound associated with an elephant call. While Wikie moved up to your challenge when, the final test to prove the hypothesis would have been to see whether the killer whale could replicate human sounds.
To investigate, the researchers introduced Wikie to some simple words: “Ah ah,” “hello,” “bye-bye,” “one-two-three,” along with the name of her trainer, “Amy.” Recommended to their delight, she mimicked “hello” instantly. However the others took a little longer, the smart mammal was eventually able to master every one of them. The cheeky whale even learned the way to blow a raspberry! The study, who compared the recordings on the original and imitation sounds and properly tested them with human listeners, express that Wikie’s imitations, without the need of “perfect,” are definitely “recognizable.”
Wikie, needless to say, won’t realize what she is saying. She is merely copying the sounds to have the reward that follows every attempt. However, it once more demonstrates the mammals’ intelligence. Abrahamson says imitation skills are very important for animals in the wild given that it makes it possible for learn from their peers. When compared, learning through experimentation “can be very expensive… you could die just trying poisonous fish, for example, for killer whales. But if you learn from the example of while it’s safer.” The researcher, believes species that have this ability can adapt without difficulty to modifications to their environment and boost their odds of survival.
Resources: Phys.org, mashable.com, smithsonianmag.com, npr.org