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NOC The White Beluga Whale Amazed Scientists By Talking Like A Human.

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A recent study uncovered that a beluga whale had the ability to mimic the sound of human speech. a white whale called NOC is known to have mimicked sounds of humans. The beluga also known as sea canaries for their vocal abilities startled everyone with sounds that resembled children making noises far away. For years, NOC was part of the U.S. Navy’s Marine Mammal Program in San Diego, which was aimed at studying whether whales, dolphins, seals and other marine mammals could do underwater reconnaissance or perhaps even disable mines. NOC was captured in 1977 in Canada’s Hudson Bay and brought down to California to work with researchers and divers. (He was the smallest of the pack, and Ridgway says that led to the nickname “no-see-um,” or NO-C for short.) 
Image source: cbsnews
Image source: cbsnews

Seven years later, the researchers noticed that NOC spontaneously started making unusual sounds — “as if two people were conversing in the distance just out of range for our understanding,” they reported in the journal Current Biology. One time, a diver came to the surface outside NOC’s enclosure and asked his colleagues, “Who told me to get out?” They soon concluded it was the whale, which must have been saying “Out, out, out.”

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Ridgway’s team recorded NOC’s calls, and found that their acoustic features were very unlike typical whale sounds, but not unlike those of human speech. The rhythm was comparable, with vocal bursts that lasted for around three seconds and gaps of less than 0.5 seconds. NOC’s calls had a fundamental frequency of 200 to 300 Hz (the octave around middle C), which is similar to the range of human speech, and much lower than a whale’s usual sounds. The researchers also explained that speaking like a human was no easy task for the beluga whale. “Our observations suggest that the whale had to modify its vocal mechanics in order to make the speech-like sounds,” Sam Ridgway, president of the National Marine Mammal Foundation and lead author on the paper, told the BBC. “The sounds we heard were clearly an example of vocal learning by the white whale.” 

Here is the recording:

While Noc was certainly something special, he isn’t the only whale to exhibit this kind of behavior. According to LiveScience there have been other anecdotal reports of whales sounding like humans. For example, at Vancouver Aquarium marine mammal keepers suggested that a white whale had uttered his name, “Lagosi.” 

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