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LISTEN: How it sounds when a Beluga whale shocks scientists, mimics human-talk


Photo by David Paul Ohmer via Flickr Creative Commons


Photo by Freezy SoIce via Flickr Creative Commons


Photo by Dave Mee via Flickr Creative Commons

io9 reports that researchers have released the first audio evidence of a cetacean spontaneously mimicking human speech (listen below to see how a whale thinks we sound).

The kibbitzing cetacean in question is not a trained dolphin but rather a beluga whale named "NOC," who was part of the U.S. Navy Marine Mammal Program in San Diego, California.

NOC died in 1999, but his vocalizations, both in air and underwater, were recorded and investigated by researchers, revealing an "amplitude rhythm similar to human speech," according marine scientist Sam Ridgway in the newest issue of Current Biology

Ridgway calls the white whale's intervals, frequencies, octaves, and harmonics "unlike usual whale sounds, but not unlike those of the human voice" and believes NOC's mimicry is a feat of "vocal learning."