A killer whale gives a raspberry and says ‘hello’ | Science News

Support Science Journalism

Science News is a nonprofit.

Support us by subscribing now.

News in Brief

A killer whale gives a raspberry and says ‘hello’

Mimicry of human sounds supports the idea that imitation matters in the cetaceans’ own dialects

7:19pm, January 30, 2018
two killer whales

SAY WHAT?  Killer whales can (sort of) imitate human words and other very unwhalelike sounds, says a tough test of mimicry.

Ready for sketch comedy she’s not. But a 14-year-old killer whale named Wikie has shown promise in mimicking strange sounds, such as a human “hello” — plus some rude noises.

Scientists recorded Wikie at her home in Marineland Aquarium in Antibes, France, imitating another killer whale’s loud “raspberry” sounds, as well as a trumpeting elephant and humans saying such words as “one, two, three.”

The orca’s efforts were overall “recognizable” as attempted copies, comparative psychologist José Zamorano Abramson of Complutense University of Madrid and colleagues report January 31 in Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Just how close Wikie’s imitations come to the originals depends on whether you’re emphasizing the rhythm or other aspects of sound, Abramson says.

Six people judged Wikie’s

This article is only available to Science News subscribers. Already a subscriber? Log in now.
Or subscribe today for full access.

Get Science News headlines by e-mail.

More from this issue of Science News

From the Nature Index Paid Content