Wednesday, December 12, 2012

beluga attempting "first contact" with these humans...,

psychologytoday | This story, hot off the press, of a captive beluga whale named Noc mimicking human voices is well-worth reporting (see also where there is a great video of Noc, and here). It's the first demonstration of a whale mimicking human voices.

Here's a great teaser to draw you into this fascinating discovery: “Who told me to get out?” asked a diver, surfacing from a tank in which a whale named NOC lived. The beluga’s caretakers had heard what sounded like garbled phrases emanating from the enclosure before, and it suddenly dawned on them that the whale might be imitating the voices of his human handlers." The abstract of the original research report can be seen here.

Canaries of the sea
Belugas are also called white whales and "canaries of the sea" because of their highly developed vocal repertoire. What Noc does is unexpected and fascinating. To wit, "These sounds are even more surprising because whales typically produce sounds in a completely different way from people, using their nasal tracts and not the voice box or larynx as humans do. To make these humanlike sounds, Noc had to vary the air pressure in his nasal tract while adjusting liplike valves and over-inflating sacs under his blowhole."