October 23, 2012 - While dolphins have been taught to mimic the pattern and durations of sounds
in human speech, no animal has spontaneously tried such mimicry.
But researchers heard a nine-year-old whale named NOC make sounds octaves below normal, in clipped bursts.
The researchers outline in Current Biology
just how NOC did it.
The first mystery, though, was figuring out where the sound was coming from.
When a diver at the National Marine Mammal Foundation in California
surfaced saying, "Who told me to get out?" the researchers there knew they had another example on their hands.
The whales are known as "canaries of the sea" for their high-pitched chirps, but while a number of anecdotal reports have described whales making human-like speech, none had ever been recorded.
Once they identified NOC as the culprit, they caught it on tape (view video below).
Holy warbling whales, this is GLORIOUS. For the first time ever, researchers have presented audio evidence of a cetacean (a beluga whale by the name of "NOC") spontaneously mimicking human speech. The recording featured below is 100 real, and it is amazing. Recorded by scientists a few years ago, it was just released online earlier today.