BBC Earth (Asia) - - Update -

What did they do?

A team of re­searchers at the Univer­sity of St An­drews taught Wikie, an orca based at Marineland Aquar­ium in An­tibes, France, to im­i­tate hu­man speech.

What can she say?

The re­searchers picked words that were ini­tially un­fa­mil­iar to Wikie. But by copy­ing a trainer, she was able to say “hello” and “bye bye”, and count to three. And she’s a fast learner too – she of­ten spoke the words cor­rectly on her first try.

Why did they do it?

It’s known that or­cas in the wild have calls that are spe­cific to their own pod, and when cap­tive or­cas are moved, they change their call to fit in with their new com­pan­ions. The re­searchers wanted to show that the an­i­mals learn these new calls by im­i­tat­ing the sounds that they hear.

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