Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Barking Whales and Traffic Jamming Elephants.

Most of us are used to the idea of hearing a parrot mimic a person's words, another animal's sounds, or even non-animate sounds like a creaking door. But if someone told you they had a cat, dog, or hamster that could do this you might wonder what they had been smoking. That is because outside of primates and bats there are no credible reports of other mammals imitating the sounds of other animals. That is until recently.

In the August 22nd issue of Biology Letters researchers report an observation of killer whales (Orcinus orca) mimicking the sound of sea lion barks. Young killer whales grow up in pods of family members and learn the vocalizations of their group. When two adolescent killer whales were separated from their pod-mates, the sounds of their vocalizations started to diverge from those of their family. With no other whales to copy in their new hood, they learned to talk like the sea lions around them.

Go take a listen to the sound clips of a whale imitating a sea lion bark and a sea lion barking.

It seems that African elephants are also part of this exclusive mammalian club. Joyce Poole, who has worked on elephant vocalizations for several decades, reports that elephants have been observed mimicking the low rumble of traffic and the species distinct calls of Asian elephants.

What is the common thread among these mammalian vocal mimics? They all live in highly complex social groups in which vocal learning is important for social interactions.

Posted by PWH.


At 10:27 PM, Blogger PWH said...

Here is some another article on elephant mimicry. This elephant can copy its trainer's voice, including saying 'yes,' 'no' and 'lie down.'

It's nothing new to learn that birds are also good mimics, but this bird is
. Fast forward to 2:00 for the good stuff.


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