A whale living close to a pod of bottlenose dolphins has amazingly learned to speak their language, according to research.
Just two months after the beluga whale was introduced to its new facility alongside the dolphins, scientists found it began to ‘imitate their whistles’, reports The Independent.
The four-year-old whale was moved in 2013 to live in the Koktebel dolphinarium in Crimea, with details of the discovery reported in science journal Animal Cognition.
[ooyala code=”5pNnR0YzE6bCvYlQjMl5Mzt65vzC9eFC” player_id=”5df2ff5a35d24237905833bd032cd5d8″ auto=”true” width=”854″ height=”480″ pcode=”twa2oyOnjiGwU8-cvdRQbrVTiR2l”]
And as the whale learned to communicate in the same language as the dolphins, scientists found the whale began losing the ability to speak its own.
Researcher Elena Panaova, of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow, said:
Two months after the beluga’s introduction into a new facility, we found that it began to imitate whistles of the dolphins, whereas one type of its own calls seemed to disappear.
While the imitations of dolphin whistles were regularly detected among the beluga’s vocalisations, we found only one case in which the dolphins produced short calls that resembled those of the beluga.
The researchers have since recorded ‘more than 90 hours of audio’ of the beluga whale communicating like its dolphin neighbours.
According to The Independent, in general, dolphins communicate using two kinds of sounds, ‘whistles’ and ‘clicks’.
The clicks are used to sense their surroundings through echolocation, while they use whistles to communicate with other members of their species, which is what the whale was mimicking.
The change in language was not reciprocated however, the dolphins continued to communicate in their own language.
The researchers wrote:
The inspection of the audio recordings made before and after the beluga’s introduction revealed that the cross-species imitation was not reciprocal.
Here’s a video of a beluga whale mimicking human speech:
Beluga whales are known to be are highly intelligent species and in the past have been known to imitate humans.
In 2012 a beluga whale began ‘speaking with similarities to human speech patterns’, indicating it was indeed trying to ‘talk to his human captors’.
The whale, called NOC, was trying to reach out to humans, scientists believe.
One of the first indications NOC was making human sounds was when a diver went into his pen and came to the surface asking his colleagues ‘who told me to get out?’.
Sam Ridgway, a researcher, ‘analysed the archived sound recordings made when NOC was alive and compared them to the sounds made by the human voice, such as the speech patterns and multiple harmonics of spoken words’.
Mr Ridgway’s comparison revealed there to be a ‘remarkable similarity’ made even more remarkable given the fact whales ‘vocalise between themselves by blowing air through their noses rather than the larynx in the throat’, which is how humans make vocal sounds.
However, researchers have been arguing this latest case is ‘more pioneering’ because the whale has actually given up speaking its own language to order to adapt to the dolphins.