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Whale Mimics Humans

October 30, 2012

A male beluga whale copied human speech patterns.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):

A whale of a copycat…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

(whale mimicking human speech)

This might sound like a recording of a man singing badly in the shower, but it’s really a beluga whale mimicking human speech. Divers and whale trainers at the National Marine Mammal Foundation first mistook the vocalizations for another person, according veterinarian and neurobiologist Sam Ridgway. But further investigation revealed that a whale named NOC produced the sounds. Ridgway says whales usually vocalize well above the human vocal range.

SAM RIDGWAY (National Marine Mammal Foundation):

RIDGWAY:

It appeared to us that he was very much altering his sound production mechanism to accommodate the production of these very low frequency humanoid sounds.

HIRSHON:

As to why the whale didn’t just stick to whale talk, Ridgway speculates that NOC liked to be noticed and may have enjoyed the attention. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.

A beluga, or white whale like this one sometimes mimicked human speech. (Steve Snodgrass/Flickr)