Not only killer whales can communicate with each other, a new study has found that they can also learn “dolphin language”.
We know that most animals can communicate among their species with innate sounds, but species that can imitate new sounds and use them properly in social situations are not that common. This ability is called vocal learning and is a trait of humans, bats, some birds, and cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and porpoises).
According to a recent study, killer whales (Orcinus orca) are able to learn vocalizations from other species, such as dolphins. When socialized with dolphins, killer whales changed the type of sounds they made and started “talking dolphin” instead.
“There’s been an idea for a long time that killer whales learn their dialect, but it isn’t enough to say they all have different dialects so therefore they learn,” says study researcher Ann Bowles, a senior research scientist at Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute in Carlsbad, California. “There needs to be some experimental proof so you can say how well they learn and what context promotes learning.”