Echoics in Whales

Recently in the news we heard of Wikie, a Killer Whale, who has been successfully taught to say “Hello” and “Bye Bye”. In addition, Wikie can count up to 3 (“1, 2, 3”). The Telegraph reported about Wikie, and included a video of Wikie speaking.

On one instance the trainer says “hello” and Wikie responds “hello”. In the video you can also hear Wikie copying “bye bye” and counting when she hears her trainer say “1, 2, 3”. This is a fantastic achievement as Wikie is the first Whale to be recorded saying human words.

This is the first controlled experiment that shows that Killer Whales can imitate sounds of humans. In relation to Verbal Behaviour, this skill is known as ‘Echoic’.

Echoics is imitation of vocal sounds. The speakers vocal behaviour matches the vocal Discriminative Stimulus (SD).


In this example, the Whale’s behaviour is prompted by a vocal prompt (SD) and has point-to-point correspondence and formal similarity.

echoic example.jpg

This is very exciting experiment as it helps us understand more about animal behaviour and the development of echoics. If you want to learn more about Wikie and the experiment go to the Telegraph article.

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