The killer whale that may say 'whats up' and 'bye bye'

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Orcas can say "hello", "bye-bye" and "one-two-three", while the voice doesn't make a ideal mimicry, but sounds impressively identifiable.

In mammals, it is very rare.

"Humans, obviously, are good at it ..."

We wish Wilkie nothing but the best of luck as she uses her newfound powers to stage an heroic escape before she gets Blackfish'd.

The scientists thought the ability of Wilkie to imitate new noises may provide some insight into the process by which whales imitate the sounds they hear in the wild, and acquire dialects.

The sounds made by Wikie are parrot-like noises as well as shrill whistles through her blowhole.

The researchers were studying a 14-year-old female killer whale named Wikie, who was well-trained and had been taught how to copy behaviours in a previous study. Researchers say it sheds light on how killer whales are able to develop pod-specific dialects, and to communicate cooperative strategies that can be employed while hunting.

However, cetaceans - the mammal group that includes whales and dolphins - are known to be highly adept when it comes to vocal imitation.

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The project is delightful, showing that killer whales can pick-up and reproduce novel sounds to a striking degree.

Dr Jose Abramson, from Complutense University of Madrid in Spain, a co-researcher on the study, said basic "conversations" with Wikie may one day be possible.

He said: "It's conceivable. if you have labels, descriptions of what things are". "It has been done before with a famous grey parrot and dolphins using American sign language; sentences like "bring me this object" or "put this object above or below the other".

In the paper, researchers explained that vocal imitation is a hallmark of human spoken language but in other animals it occurs less often.

"The intricacy of killer whale communication reflects their complex social structure and mental comprehension", Rachael Griffin, a biologist with Aquagreen Marine Research in Victoria, British Columbia, told Live Science in an email.

A year ago the company vowed to fight a ban on breeding killer whales and dolphins in captivity, claiming it would harm its animals.

"That is what makes it even more impressive - even though the morphology [of orcas] is so different, they can still produce a sound that comes close to what another species, in this case us, can produce", said Call. Even beluga whales have been observed copying humans but so far, no controlled experiments have been conducted to verify the reports.