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Killer Whales Caught On Tape Speaking Dolphin 152

sciencehabit writes Two years ago, scientists showed that dolphins imitate the sounds of whales. Now, it seems, whales have returned the favor. Researchers analyzed the vocal repertoires of 10 captive orcas, three of which lived with bottlenose dolphins and the rest with their own kind. Of the 1551 vocalizations these seven latter orcas made, more than 95% were the typical pulsed calls of killer whales. In contrast, the three orcas that had only dolphins as pals busily whistled and emitted dolphinlike click trains and terminal buzzes, the scientists report in the October issue of The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. The findings make orcas one of the few species of animals that, like humans, is capable of vocal learning (video)—a talent considered a key underpinning of language."
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Killer Whales Caught On Tape Speaking Dolphin

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  • by halivar ( 535827 ) <bfelger@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday October 08, 2014 @01:42PM (#48095033)

    "Hey buddy. Hey pal. You wanna come swim in my tank? Come jump on over, my tasty friend. We have lots of fish to fill your delicious belly."

    • by sycodon ( 149926 )

      Whale: Me no likey fishy. Me likey seals. You likey fish? capiche?

      Dolphin: Shit, where's this guy from?

      • by tlhIngan ( 30335 )

        Whale: Me no likey fishy. Me likey seals. You likey fish? capiche?

        Dolphin: Shit, where's this guy from?

        In BC, we have two kinds of orcas. The "resident orca" population actually eats fish (salmon) most of the time. The others are "transient" and they are the ones that eat seals.

        Both are orcas, but they have completely different diets.

        Dolphins though generally eat smaller fish.

        OTOH, one wonders if orcas do it to eat dolphins. (They aren't called "killer whales" for nothing).

        Seals have also been known to seek

      • by Mal-2 ( 675116 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2014 @03:24PM (#48096427) Homepage Journal

        Dolphin to Orca: Hey man, you need to get checked out. It looks like you blew a seal.

        Orca to Dolphin: Nope, it's just ice cream.

        • Dolphin to Orca: Hey man, you need to get checked out. It looks like you blew a seal.

          Orca to Dolphin: Nope, it's just ice cream.

          Are you sure you are not confusing it with a sperm whale?

    • No, I'm pretty sure the killer whale taught himself to say, "Look, there's no way your husband could find out".

    • "Candygram."
    • If you think about it, it all makes kinda sense. The name 'killer whale' is wrong (result of a bad translation), it should be 'whale killer' and with a revelation like this, I think it makes the Orca a more perfect hunter as it not only hunts whales in packs and communicate between each other, it could also speak and understand the language of it's prey.

      Orca Alpha (voice only): Yo bro, wanna buy some Krill? Got the best $hit around.
      Whale approaches. Gang of Orcas pop out from behind an iceberg.
      Whale: Like,

  • by freality ( 324306 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2014 @01:42PM (#48095041) Homepage Journal

    Hmm.. Language learning could as well be within-species. Sounds more interesting here that dolphins and orcas can communicate spontaneously given close quarters.

    • The summary at least says "imitate".

      Sure, making noise is some limited form of communication (a dog barking is 'telling' you something). But unless TFA goes into more actual detail, this isn't true inter-species communication, but mimicry. Is a parrot "communicating" with you when it says "Polly want a cracker?"

      • Is a parrot "communicating" with you when it says "Polly want a cracker?"

        If it wants one and has received them in the past using that sound, then clearly, yes. The "monkey see, monkey do" hypothesis is nonsense born from the perfectly natural tendency of humans to believe they hold a special place in the animal kingdom. For example, there's a native bird in the hills near where I live called a lyrebird. It's said to be the world's best mimic (check it out on YT), it will accurately mimic any other sound it hears.

        What people rarely mention, or even notice, about this "mimic" i

      • The summary at least says "imitate".

        Indeed. For all we know, this could be the equivalent of Charlie Chan. Did anyone ask the dolphins if they find it offensive?

      • I think you're understating what parrots are actually able to do. It's easy to generalize as "polly want a cracker," but the very well established case study of Alex the parrot [wikipedia.org] shows they're able to do significantly more AND understand what they're doing.
      • The summary at least says "imitate".

        Sure, making noise is some limited form of communication (a dog barking is 'telling' you something). But unless TFA goes into more actual detail, this isn't true inter-species communication, but mimicry. Is a parrot "communicating" with you when it says "Polly want a cracker?"

        Actually, that's speculation on your part. Because WE don't understand it, it doesn't mean it's mimicry. Since dolphins do indeed seem to have language, names and definitely can understand sentence structures (as we do), it's more likely your speculation is wrong.

        • Actually, that's speculation on your part. Because WE don't understand it, it doesn't mean it's mimicry. Since dolphins do indeed seem to have language, names and definitely can understand sentence structures (as we do), it's more likely your speculation is wrong.

          But that doesn't mean that a dolphin can understand the _language_ and _sentence structures_ of whales.. (this story was actually about the reverse, whales mimicing dolphins.. but the hypothesis goes both ways.)

          Even if it can mimic the sounds of th

  • Whales? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 08, 2014 @01:44PM (#48095065)

    Aren't Orcas dolphins?

  • Free the bastards! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Scottingham ( 2036128 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2014 @01:46PM (#48095111)
    All the more reason to free these suckers...god damn.

    I get it though, they're no longer suited to living in the wild, etc etc. Can't we help them out with some head-mounted lasers or something?
    • Head-mounted lasers are for sharks. [slashdot.org] There is, however specific equipment intended to dolphins [slashdot.org].
    • by nytes ( 231372 )

      Lasers?! Don't be silly. What do you think they are, sharks?

    • by TWX ( 665546 )
      I have a novel idea...

      How about searching for a large briny or brackish inland lake, something actually big enough to offer a degree of freedom to Orcas, and turn them loose there where one can keep an eye on them and provide food? It could either serve as a halfway-house for release into the wild, or could become a permanent home for those that demonstrate that they can't provide for themselves. One could make the venture profitable by having whale-watching tours with glass-bottom surface craft and wi
  • anymore... Put away his Orca on a stick corn dog....

  • These are also the only mammals (or anything for that matter) that have blowholes. They're both mammals. And both have tails that are flat horizontally rather than vertically. They both also are capable of being thankful to other species when it applies.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 08, 2014 @01:55PM (#48095269)

      Fascinating, but why are you submitting your third grade science homework to Slashdot?

      • Well, is it really 3rd grade stuff, or is that all that you can relate it to? Connecting the dots is the art of life my friend. There is a lot more that I'd like to say about this, but it's really not proper for slashdot.
        • yea you pretty much sounded exactly like 3rd grader giving a presentation to the class about whales and dolphins

          • There was no other way, my friend. And now, thanks to the work and discoveries made by these scientists, third graders have another way to compare dauphins and whales. Generally, great discoveries can be made from connecting dots, regardless what "grade" those dots seem to exist in.

            One bit that I find extremely interesting (and beyond what we covered in third grade):
            Baleen whales have two blowholes positioned in a V-shape while toothed whales have only one blowhole. The blowhole of a sperm whale, a to
    • These are also the only mammals (or anything for that matter) that have blowholes.

      Lawyers and politicians have blowholes, though many of them are Reptilians.

  • Are they thanking us for all the fish?.. I'm worried now...

  • I wonder if they speak it with an accent, like when I try to speak a little Spanish. :-P

    I guess this doesn't seem all that surprising (on the surface, to someone who admittedly doesn't know much about it).

    A huge amount of their brains is geared towards processing sound because they use sonar. Is picking up some dolphin sounds really that much of a stretch?

    I mean, I can haltingly say "dos cerveza por favor" and "ron negro con jugo de pina" ... and my wife assures me I'm an idiot.

    Whales and the like are smar

    • Cervezas. Dos cervezas. Perhaps why your wife is mocking you.
  • by skine ( 1524819 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2014 @01:57PM (#48095301)

    TFS seems to imply some divide between dolphins and whales, where orcas fall into the latter. Orcas and dolphins share the same subfamily.

    For comparison, humans and chimps share the same subfamily, and there are clear examples of similarities between us (assuming most of you are human) and chimps. Thus it's not exactly surprising to find similarities between orcas and dolphins.

    • Have you met a chimp that has learned to talk yet?

      • by swb ( 14022 )

        Isn't the limitation physiological? Something to do with an inability to precisely control their vocal cords like humans?

        I thought they had taught a few to use sign language.

        • Of course it's physiological. The point I'm making is that nothing about them being the same subfamily would make that they would be able to talk to each other any more or less surprising.

      • Sign language is pretty damn close.

    • Well the problem is that chimps cannot communicate recreate the same sounds as humans can. Yes they can use sign language but dolphins and killer whales can't do that. What scientists have not seen before is whether orcas and dolphins can make the same sounds.
    • by skine ( 1524819 )

      To complete the comparison:

      Whale is to dolphin what monkey is to human.

      That is, a dolphin is a species of whale, just as a human is a species of monkey.

  • One of these days, we are going to figure out that intelligence != human intelligence. Who knows, maybe it'll be before the alien overlords who haven't learned their equivalent show up?

  • Sorry (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 08, 2014 @02:05PM (#48095407)
    Taped evidence is inadmissable without a warrant.
  • Vocal Learning (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PPH ( 736903 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2014 @02:07PM (#48095439)

    A talent shared by other species (parrots, for example).

    I wondered if the errant pings from MH370 that various navies were chasing might be immitations of the actual FDR sonar pinger made by some sea creatures. Dolphins (or something) hear the real pinger and then figure out that if they imitate the noise, people in ships will come over to 'play'.

    • IIRC, Carl Sagan said in one of his books that he believed we were "TV for dolphins", their entertainment.

  • In other news, parrots who live with humans learn to speak human languages and some chimpanzees living with smokers have even learned to smoke cigarettes.

    I guess those things are bound to happen when two species hang together when their anatomies allow to.

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/new... [dailymail.co.uk]

  • by ledow ( 319597 )

    I'm always amazed at how WE'RE always amazed (or supposed to be) that animals can do things that we do.

    There are fewer and fewer and fewer things that are the realm of humans alone (and even then, it's generally only by scale, rather than actual ability).

    We're animals. They are animals. We all do things like "try to sound like other animals we hear".

    • I'm not shocked by this news, yet i still find it amazing. there's nothing wrong with seeing the world with wonder.
  • by SGDarkKnight ( 253157 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2014 @02:36PM (#48095777)

    Orca: What do you mean "So long, and thanks for all the fish"? What aren't you telling me?

  • Are they sure it was dolphins speaking whale and not a blue tang that sounds like Ellen Degeneress?
  • by idontgno ( 624372 ) on Wednesday October 08, 2014 @03:22PM (#48096385) Journal

    Pickup lines by male Orcas.

    "Hey, Baby, you've heard about Orcas, right? We're whales, Honey, and I do mean that in every way. Yeah. Once you've gone black and white, you never go back. And white."

  • I'm probably late with this post, but orcas are the largest dolphin. This news really is big dolphins imitate little dolphins. I've also heard of large apes imitating the hand communication of some smaller apes.
  • I have dogs that speak pig words and human words. We have a large pack of livestock working dogs that do guarding and herding on our pastured pig farm. The dogs have learned some of the sounds the pigs make to drive the pigs when herding. This makes them more effective at doing their job. They also know and use some human words both with us and with each other. We also use whistles, clicks and hand signs to communicate. There is a lot more interspecies communications going on than scientists realize in thei

    • Those of us out working in the real world have known many of these things for millennia.

      That's amazing, you write in such a modern style.

      • by pubwvj ( 1045960 )

        What is interesting is that you think "us" has to mean an individual - a very limited view of language.

        • What is interesting is that you think "us" has to mean an individual - a very limited view of language.

          No, and that is a very limited interpretation of my response. I think that "those of us" applies to a subgroup.

  • I wish more people were bothered by the fact that they are doing experiments at all on captive Orcas and Dolphins.

    Most captive Orcas aren't in facilities because they've been injured (unlike zoos and aquariums which work on rehabilitation and reintroduction). Orcas are often ripped away from their pods. Many of them get violent and kill trainers (and rightfully so). You can't put something that travels the ocean in a fish tank. Orcas only live to be about 25 in captivity where in the while, they live to be

  • Disgusting.

    You'll never catch me going through the doors of one of those revolting places. They should be shut down and the captive animals rehabilitated and returned to the wild. The ones which were captive-born are a more difficult problem, and may need to be released into a constrained area (a fjord with a netted sea connection. perhaps) for an extended period of rehabilitation and time to form a stable pod and learn their natural environment.

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