As you may have noticed, a number of bird species have proven capable of mimicking snippets of sound they overhear, be it a melody, the wail of an ambulance or a dirty phrase taught to them by some drunk fella at a party. But here's the thing: most mammals suck at it. Not so seals. They're able to reproduce the sounds they hear, even if they're outside of their regular vocal range.
In this video, these seals, who were schooled by scientists from the University of St. Andrews, are captured barking out the Star Wars theme song and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. It's adorable! It's also a part of some pretty important research that could eventually lead to a greater under standing of speech disorders in humans.
This sort of stuff's beyond me, but Gizmodo's George Dvorsky does a damn fine job of breaking down why the work has the potential to be so important.
“First, knowing how seals use sounds is important to assess how they are affected by noise created by human activities such as shipping or marine construction,” he explained. “This, in turn, will help us to manage wild populations more carefully. Second, studying how vocal learning works in seals and how it might be naturally impaired in some individuals can help to understand vocal development and its limitations in other mammalian learners that use similar structures, such as humans.”
It's a lengthy story, but it's fascinating stuff--if you've got a few minutes to kill, taking a read of it is definitely worth your time.
Image via Flickr, courtesy of Alastair Rae
The Bank of England has unveiled its new £50 notes, which had been earmarked to honour a distinguished British scientist, and which will feature Alan Turing, the WWII hero who discovered many of the foundational insights to both modern computing and cryptography, and whose work with the codebreakers of Bletchley Park are widely believed to […]
The great science purge, they’ll call it one day. Donald Trump is closing science offices throughout the federal government. ‘As of June, around 85 percent of all scientific posts in the federal government, including an official scientific advisor to the President, were left unfilled,’ write the editors of I F***ing Love Science blog in an […]
Ed Hawkins, a climate scientist, created Show Your Stripes as a way to easily visualize the past century's climate change: give it a location and it will render a series of stripes representing a century's worth of average annual temperatures (above: global average temperature); as Kottke notes: "The warming patterns for particular regions are not […]
With the rising temperatures on tap this summer, the climate is going to be a frequent topic of conversation, and those conversations won’t be happy ones. Luckily, there’s a way to do a little climate change of your own – in a safe and sustainable way. When it comes to personal air conditioners, EvaPolar is […]
Whether you’re using them for next-level selfies or steady tracking shots, gimbals are a must for anyone who wants to maximize the potential of these powerful smartphone cameras we’re all carrying around. But those smartphones are also supposed to be portable, and let’s face it: Gimbals tend to offset that advantage. Weighing in at just […]
It’s too hot for yard sales, but hey: The internet is here for you. Here are the top ten deals on some of the Boing Boing Store’s best gear, just in time for summer. It’s everything from grills to security cameras to MacBook Pros, and they might be as low as they’re ever going to […]