Orca mimics human speech

Wikie  a 16-year-old female orca in a French marine theme park is able to copy words such as ‘hello’ ‘bye bye’ and ‘Amy’ as well as count to three. The sounds emerge as parrot-like squawks shrill whistles or raspberries but most

The people hearing to the highly-pitche distinct sound of voice clearly heard Wikie calling "Amy". And since this was just the one whale, the researchers are unsure whether there are more copy-cat killer whales in the wild.

They also tested whether Wikie could emulate six human words or phrases, including "one two three", "ah ah" and "Amy". The match was also confirmed by blindfolded judges who had to listen to original and orca-produced audio samples and then decide whether the pairs sounded similar.

In the wild, killer whales live in pods and are known to have different dialects, but there has been intense debate in the scientific community around how this came to be.

"The results reported here show that killer whales have evolved the ability to control sound production and qualify as open-ended vocal learners", wrote the researchers.

The global team behind the study included Professor Josep Call, a psychologist from St Andrews University's school of neuroscience.

Scientists in their earlier experiments had learnt the ocra's ability to copy movements of other species and mimic sounds of bottlenose dolphins and sea lions. In fact, an African grey parrot recently garnered headlines by mimicking human speech so accurately that the bird was referenced in a murder trial, allegedly for speaking what may have been its owner's last words before the man was killed. "There is no evidence yet now to prove that the ocra understand "hello", added Call.

"We thought what would be really convincing is to present them with something that is not in their repertoire - and in this case "hello" [is] not what a killer whale would say", Call said.

The research was conducted at the Marineland Aquarium in Antibes, France.

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We found that the subject made recognizable copies of all familiar and novel conspecific and human sounds tested and did so relatively quickly (most during the first 10 trials and three in the first attempt).

Orcas have previously been shown to make vocalizations that they learned from their mothers and from other groups, a skill that served as a basis for the new experiments.

A killer whale living in captivity has surprised scientists by allegedly learning to "speak" human words through its blowhole.

"You can not pick a word that is very complicated because then I think you are asking too much - we wanted things that were short but were also distinctive", said Call.

A new study, Wednesday in the journal "Proceedings of the Royal Society B" and led by the Complutense University of Madrid, found orcas have the ability to learn and mimic human language.

Making sounds outside her natural medium she found some of the unfamiliar whale noises more hard than human words, said Dr Abramson.

The matching was further backed up through an analysis of various acoustic features from the recordings of Wikie's sounds.

A team of global researchers have taught a female orca whale to imitate human speech, documenting what is considered to be a world first in a paper published Wednesday.

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