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Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Killer whales are capable of Vocal Learning

The production learning of vocalizations by
manipulation of the sound production organs to
alter the physical structure of sound has been
demonstrated in only a few mammals. In this
natural experiment, we document the vocal
behaviour of two juvenile killer whales, Orcinus
orca, separated from their natal pods, which are
the only cases of dispersal seen during the three
decades of observation of their populations. We
find mimicry of California sea lion (Zalophus
californianus) barks, demonstrating the vocal
production learning ability for one of the calves.
We also find differences in call usage (compared
to the natal pod) that may reflect the absence of
a repertoire model from tutors or some
unknown effect related to isolation or context.

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Biology Letters
ScienceNOW
National Geographic
Vancouver Province
Spiegel Online
New York Times

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