One of the reasons that humans are considered more evolved than most species is our ability to communicate with one another through language; this may not be the case for long since orcas appear to be able to mimic human speech. In recent studies being conducted at the Marineland aquarium in France, an orca named Wikie was able to mimic certain words like “hello” and “bye-bye”.
How were researchers able to tell that Wikie was learning new words? In order to make sure the orca was learning new words, the research was conducted by choosing words the orca had not heard in the past. As heard in the audio clip, the orca “speaks” at a higher frequency, but the words are still understandable.
How can orcas mimic human speech? Humans are capable of speaking due to forcing air out of their larynx, a part of the throat that contains vocal cords which vibrate to produce sound, but orcas do not have vocal cords in their larynx. Orcas make sound by moving air in their nasal sacs by their blowhole. Even though humans and orcas both have a larynx, they are used in a different way to make sound.
Why did researchers want to see if orcas can mimic human speech? The researchers were interested in this idea since orcas appear to travel in pods in the wild and communicate with one another, but there is no evidence on how this originally started. Due to the orcas being able to mimic human speech, researchers believe there may be ways to learn the ways orcas communicate with one another and eventually understand an orcas’ nature.
Does this research mean we can talk to orcas one day? Researcher were quick to point out that orcas may be able to mimic human speech, but there are no results indicating they fully understand the meaning of the words they are saying.
The scientists believe that further research may open more possibilities, but this particular study was not enough to understand if humans and orcas can one day communicate through language. Regardless of what researchers are saying, knowing that orcas can mimic my words back to me is still very cool. Hopefully the continuation of this research can help me better communicate with my dog Gabby in the future.
Author: Moneek Gill