Listen to this killer whale say ‘hello’ and ‘b…

Listen to this killer whale say ‘hello’ and ‘bye-bye’ 

When it comes to echoing human speech, parrots are the superstars of the animal world—but a killer whale named Wikie may not be far behind. The 14-year-old orca showed off her vocal skills by imitating her trainer’s words, saying things like “Amy” and “bye-bye.” Researchers got her to do this by first training her to obey a hand signal that meant “copy this,” which, for instance, was used to instruct her to copy another orca squirting water into the air. Then, they presented her with sounds she had never heard before—five sounds from other orcas and six phrases spoken by trainers—and asked her to repeat them. In all trials, Wikie responded to the command by uttering something that roughly matched the sound that she was asked to copy, the team reports today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Sometimes it took as many as 17 tries to get it right, but she got four of them on her first try, including the human phrases “hello” and “one, two, three.” Orcas form tight-knit groups in the wild, each with their own dialect, so scientists think that their ability to learn new sounds may be key to how they communicate and interact with one other.