Whale mimics human speech

From the NMMFoundation:

A new paper published by the National Marine Mammal Foundation in the scientific journal Current Biology sheds light on the ability of marine mammals to spontaneously mimic human speech. The study details the case of a white whale named NOC who began to mimic the human voice, presumably a result of vocal learning.

"The whale's vocalizations often sounded as if two people were conversing in the distance," says Dr. Sam Ridgway, President of the National Marine Mammal Foundation. "These 'conversations' were heard several times before the whale was eventually identified as the source. In fact, we discovered it when a diver mistook the whale for a human voice giving him underwater directions."


      1. Totally Kazoo. 

        New headline suggestion:  Noc posthumously kazoos at humans, mocking us from the grave…

  1. “We discovered it when a diver mistook the whale for a human voice giving him underwater directions.”

    The whale was indeed giving him directions, but in his best “human speech” voice.

    Sort like when you travel to a foreing country, ask for directions and they give you a gibberish of englishlike colloquial hungarian.

  2.  “…the case of a white whale named NOC…”

    Who the hell still calls belugas “white whales”?

    1. Much less puts one in charge of the Network Operations Center.

      That being said, that whale is a lot more intelligible that many of the sysadmins I’ve known. And probably a lot less passive-agressive.

  3. Parrots do that too. We have a blue and gold macaw, a yellow fronted amazon and two african greys that do that too. I hate it when I think I’m talking to my wife and I find out that I’m actually talking to Admiral Byrd, instead!

  4. I was pretty sure the date was October 22nd. Now I have to fix that and set my calendar to April 1st.

  5. Are they sure it’s not the humans’ brains finding speechlike patterns in noise? I get that all the time when I’m half asleep with a fan on — sounds like people having conversations in another room. The same phenomenon accounts for seeing swirly patterns in video static (although come to think of it one doesn’t see that much these days, as modern TVs typically cut to solid blue or black in the absence of a coherent signal.)

    1. Aha! So it’s not just me. Such a weird thing. And really spooky before I figured it out. Reducing my drug intake probably helped with that, too.

      Humans are pattern-making animals, it’s true. Very peculiar when I can see the machinery working to parse random sensory input and try to make something coherent out of it…makes me wonder about all of the constant parsing that’s going on that I don’t notice, and what the input would actually look/sound/feel/taste like without it.

    2.  I thought exactly the same thing. The 2nd half of the recording sounds a hell of a lot like this:

  6. you know, I caught a squirrel in our backyard/courtyard area (the 2 apartment complexes face back to back,  the strip between them have trees and grass) emulating a crow call between his squirrel chirps. probably to ward of predators.

  7. John C. Lilly and his wife tried to teach dolphins to talk. There are some hilarious recordings of that.

  8. “Blah, blah, blah… Talking on cellphone about some bullshit… Doo, dee, doo, dee, foo… Mortage… Wife… Kids… Blah, bloh, blee, oh how I wish I was a whale! They are the best!”

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