Please send any feedback to email@example.com
The Whale Who Spoke Like a Human (Audio)
By Cassie Ryan On October 22, 2012 @ 8:57 pm In Inspiring Discoveries | No Comments
This audio clip captures the unusual speech-like sounds from white whale NOC. (Current Biology, Ridgway et al.)
A white whale known as NOC was able to imitate the sound of human voices, even though cetaceans make sounds in a totally different way.
Back in 1984, strange sounds were heard at the National Marine Mammal Foundation in California that sounded like a distant conversation between two people.
One day, a diver in the whale enclosure thought he heard someone telling him to get out of the water. The noises turned out to be coming from NOC, who lived with a group of dolphins and socialized with two female white whales.
The researchers recorded NOC’s calls and found that their rhythm was similar to human speech and several octaves lower than the sounds whales typically make.
“Our observations suggest that the whale had to modify its vocal mechanics in order to make the speech-like sounds,” said study co-author Sam Ridgway of the National Marine Mammal Foundation. “Such obvious effort suggests motivation for contact.”
NOC was trained to make the sounds using rewards after a signal. This allowed the researchers to study the vocalizations, although the behavior stopped after about four years when the whale matured, and he died five years ago.
“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.”
NOC was exposed to humans both at the surface and when divers used surface-to-diver communication equipment.
However, whales use their nasal tract to make sounds, unlike the human voice which is generated by the larynx. For NOC to produce these unusual sounds, the team found that he had to make various muscular adjustments like varying the pressure in his nasal tract and inflating the vestibular sac in his blowhole.
The results were published in Current Biology on Oct. 23.
The Epoch Times publishes in 35 countries and in 19 languages. Subscribe to our e-newsletter.
Copyright © 2012 Epoch Times. All rights reserved.