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