Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

A whale with a distinctly human-like voice

Date:
October 22, 2012
Source:
Cell Press
Summary:
For the first time, researchers have been able to show by acoustic analysis that whales -- or at least one very special white whale -- can imitate the voices of humans. That's a surprise, because whales typically produce sounds in a manner that is wholly different from humans.

For the first time, researchers have been able to show by acoustic analysis that whales -- or at least one very special white whale -- can imitate the voices of humans. That's a surprise, because whales typically produce sounds in a manner that is wholly different from humans.
Credit: © hxhkidd / Fotolia

For the first time, researchers have been able to show by acoustic analysis that whales -- or at least one very special white whale -- can imitate the voices of humans. That's a surprise, because whales typically produce sounds in a manner that is wholly different from humans, say researchers who report their findings in the October 23 issue of Current Biology, a Cell Press publication.

"Our observations suggest that the whale had to modify its vocal mechanics in order to make the speech-like sounds," said Sam Ridgway of the National Marine Mammal Foundation. "Such obvious effort suggests motivation for contact."

It all started in 1984 when Ridgway and others began to notice some unusual sounds in the vicinity of the whale and dolphin enclosure. As they describe it, it sounded as though two people were conversing in the distance, just out of range of their understanding.

Those unusually familiar sounds were traced back to one white whale in particular only some time later when a diver surfaced from the whale enclosure to ask his colleagues an odd question: "Who told me to get out?"

They deduced that those utterances came from a most surprising source: a white whale by the name of NOC. That whale had lived among dolphins and other white whales and had often been in the presence of humans.

In fact, there had been other anecdotal reports of whales sounding like humans before, but in this case Ridgway's team wanted to capture some real evidence. They recorded the whale's sounds to reveal a rhythm similar to human speech and fundamental frequencies several octaves lower than typical whale sounds, much closer to that of the human voice.

"Whale voice prints were similar to human voice and unlike the whale's usual sounds," Ridgway said. "The sounds we heard were clearly an example of vocal learning by the white whale."

That's all the more remarkable because whales make sounds via their nasal tract, not in the larynx as humans do. To make those human-like sounds, NOC had to vary the pressure in his nasal tract while making other muscular adjustments and inflating the vestibular sac in his blowhole, the researchers found. In other words, it wasn't easy.

Sadly, after 30 years at the National Marine Mammal Foundation, NOC passed away five years ago. But the sound of his voice lives on.

Audio file of whale: http://www.eurekalert.org/multimedia/pub/48866.php?from=224114


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cell Press. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Sam Ridgway, Donald Carder, Michelle Jeffries, Mark Todd. Spontaneous human speech mimicry by a cetacean. Current Biology, 2012; 22 (20): R860 DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2012.08.044

Cite This Page:

Cell Press. "A whale with a distinctly human-like voice." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 October 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121022122052.htm>.
Cell Press. (2012, October 22). A whale with a distinctly human-like voice. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121022122052.htm
Cell Press. "A whale with a distinctly human-like voice." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/10/121022122052.htm (accessed August 21, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Possible Ebola Patient in Isolation at California Hospital

Possible Ebola Patient in Isolation at California Hospital

Reuters - US Online Video (Aug. 20, 2014) — A patient who may have been exposed to the Ebola virus is in isolation at the Kaiser Permanente South Sacramento Medical Center. Linda So reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Flower Power! Dandelions Make Car Tires?

Flower Power! Dandelions Make Car Tires?

Reuters - Business Video Online (Aug. 20, 2014) — Forget rolling on rubber, could car drivers soon be traveling on tires made from dandelions? Teams of scientists are racing to breed a type of the yellow flower whose taproot has a milky fluid with tire-grade rubber particles in it. As Joanna Partridge reports, global tire makers are investing millions in research into a new tire source. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Unsustainable Elephant Poaching Killed 100K In 3 Years

Unsustainable Elephant Poaching Killed 100K In 3 Years

Newsy (Aug. 20, 2014) — Poachers have killed 100,000 elephants between 2010 and 2012, as the booming ivory trade takes its toll on the animals in Africa. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Awesome New Camouflage Sheet Was Inspired By Octopus Skin

Awesome New Camouflage Sheet Was Inspired By Octopus Skin

Newsy (Aug. 19, 2014) — Scientists have developed a new device that mimics the way octopuses blend in with their surroundings to hide from dangerous predators. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins