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Come on Shamu, You Know I Don't Speak Dolphin!

Come on Shamu, You Know I Don’t Speak Dolphin!

The findings of a new study reveal that killer whales have the keen ability to learn the vocalizations of other species. Researchers came to this conclusion after observing a group of orcas adopt the songs and sounds of neighboring dolphins.

Have you ever noticed that when you spend an extended length of time in another country, your vocal patterns sometimes shift to replicate the local dialect? Or perhaps you’ve even been able to pick up a new language just through immersion. If so, you likely know how it feels to be one of the killer whales at the center of a new study published in The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America.


That’s because researchers at the National Marine Mammal Foundation have confirmed suspicions that killer whales are able to learn the vocalizations of other species. In the case of this particular study, a group of orcas exposed over three years to bottlenose dolphins were observed to have altered their communicative sounds to mirror those of their dolphin neighbors.

Laura Geggel of Live Science explains more:

“Killer whales can also learn entirely new sounds, the researchers found. One killer whale living alongside dolphins learned how to make a chirp sequence that a human caretaker had taught the dolphins before the whale’s arrival.”

“The whales’ skills indicate a high level of neural plasticity, meaning their brain circuits can change to incorporate new information.”

The findings are expected to help scientists learn more about how killer whales socialize, which will hopefully then contribute to conservation efforts. To learn more about the study as well as how orcas and other cetaceans undergo vocal learning, check out the links below.

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Read the study at Acoustical Society of America

Photo credit: FineShine / Shutterstock


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