Wikie was able to repeat a handful of words including "hello", "bye bye", "one, two" and "Amy".
Researchers have lately found that orcas got different accents and those accents are picked up by the killer whales while they imitate the adults when they are young, just like children learn how to speak by mimicking and copying. Humans obviously are good at it...
The 14-year-old female named Wikie, housed in an aquarium in Antibes, was able to mimic words and make fart-like noises, according to a study published on Wednesday in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
Scientists have demonstrated for the first time that orcas, also known as killer whales, can mimic human words, including "Amy", "Bye-Bye" and "One-Two-Three".
"Whether they could use this vocalization, these sounds they produce, whether they could use them to interact with humans or with other killer whales is a an open question, it's a fascinating question", he added. The orcas have unique vocal dialects, and they love to copy other orcas. However, as co-author of the study, Josep Call cautioned, "We have no evidence that they understand what their "hello" stands for".
The researchers had taught the calf new sounds and then prompted Wikie to imitate them.
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"Vocal imitation is a hallmark of human spoken language, which, along with other advanced cognitive skills, has fuelled the evolution of human culture", José Abramson of the Complutense University of Madrid, was quoted as saying by The Telegraph.
Dolphins and beluga whales are among the few mammals that can copy sounds from other species or each other.
This is key to their ability to mimic human speech.
"Killer whales use their blowhole to make noises, nearly like speaking out of your nose, so we were not expecting it to be flawless", Dr Jose Abramson, a researcher at the Complutense University of Madrid, who led the study, told The Independent. You might be surprised by what the whale says back.
Dr Abramson said: 'You have to be careful about imposing our human concepts on animals. While humans use the larynx to speak, whales produce sounds through their nasal passages using bursts of air. Sounds made under the water may be quite different.
Killer whales, or orcas, are the largest of the dolphins and one of the world's most powerful predators. Call said that they wanted to see how flexible a killer whale can be in copying sounds.
Throughout the study, Wikie's success was first judged by her two trainers and then confirmed from recordings by six independent adjudicators who compared them to the original sound, without knowing which was which.