Video | Business Headlines | Internet | Science | Scientific Ethics | Technology | Search

 


A whale with a distinctly human-like voice

This audio clip captures the unusual speech-like sounds from white whale NOC. Credit: Current Biology, Ridgway et al. Original link.

A whale with a distinctly human-like voice

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.

###

Ridgway et al.: "Spontaneous human speech mimicry by a cetacean"


ENDS

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines

 

Employment: ANZ Proposes Casualisation In Whangarei Stores

ANZ workers in Whangarei could see their incomes drop by 20 to 40 percent if the bank’s proposal to reduce the number of full-time positions goes ahead says FIRST Union national organiser Tali Williams. More>>

Finance: BNZ Develops Specialist Tāmaki Māori Banking Team

BNZ develops specialist Tāmaki Māori Banking Team to support Māori as Auckland grows More>>

Pharmaceuticals: Commerce Commission To Consider Pharmaceuticals Merger

The Commerce Commission has received an application from Pfizer Inc. seeking clearance to acquire all of the shares in Hospira Inc. More>>

Real Estate: Housing Unaffordability Issues Spread

Surging house prices in Auckland and Queenstown last month pushed home ownership even further beyond the reach of first home buyers in the two districts, according to the AMP360 Home Loan Affordability Report for March. More>>

Statistics NZ: Annual Exports To China Dip Below Australia

The value of goods exports to Australia ($8.7 billion) surpassed those to China for the year ended March 2015, Statistics New Zealand said today. More>>

Science: Hookworm Discovery At Malaghan Institute

Professor Graham Le Gros has led a team which has stimulated both innate and memory responses to the parasite, discovering along the way the unexpected behaviour of one particular immune cell, in Hookworm, one of the world’s most devastating tropical ... More>>

Business: Provinces Urged To Make Full Use Of New Air Services

Provincial New Zealand has been urged to use new air services to Auckland or risk losing them either partially or completely. The stark warning was issued today by Far North mayor John Carter at a ceremony at Kaitaia airport to mark the final Air ... More>>

Mobile: 2degrees To Credit All Calls And SMS To Nepal

In the wake of the devastating earthquake in Nepal in the weekend, 2degrees will be crediting all calls and SMS messages made to mobiles and landlines in Nepal from Friday 24th April until midnight Wednesday 29th April. More>>

Scoop Business: Alex Swney Pleads Guilty To $2.5M Fraud Charge

Alex Swney, former chief executive of the Auckland city centre business association Heart of the City, has pleaded guilty to dishonestly using documents to obtain $2.5 million. More>>

ALSO:

Petrol Burns Prices: Second Consecutive Quarterly Fall For CPI

The consumers price index (CPI) fell 0.3 percent in the March 2015 quarter, following a 0.2 percent fall in the December 2014 quarter, Statistics New Zealand said today. The last time the CPI showed two consecutive quarterly falls was in the December 1998 and March 1999 quarters. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sci-Tech
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news