Researchers Discover Orcas Can Imitate Human Speech

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In a paper published Wednesday in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, scientists report that a 16-year-old orca named Wikie was able to copy a variety of new sounds on command. The study joins a growing body of research illustrating the deep importance of social learning for killer whales.

“We wanted to study vocal imitation because it’s a hallmark of human spoken language, which is in turn important for human cultural evolution,” said José Zamorano-Abramson, who led the study as a postdoctoral researcher at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile. “We are interested in the possibility that other species also have cultural processes.”

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