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Male beluga whale mimics human speech, study finds

By Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 1:31 p.m. HST, Oct 22, 2012

SAN DIEGO >> It could be the muffled sound of singing in the shower or that sing-songy indecipherable voice from the Muppets’ Swedish Chef.

But scientists say it was a whale imitating people. In fact, the whale song sounded so eerily human that divers initially mistook it for a human voice. 

In a study published online Monday in Current Biology, researchers at the National Marine Mammal Foundation in San Diego recorded the spontaneous sounds of a captive male Beluga whale, while underwater and when he surfaced. 

Scientists think the whale’s close proximity to people allowed him to listen to and mimic human speech. After several years, the whale went back to sounding like a whale, emitting high-pitched noises. 

The whale died several years ago.



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