Animals like parrots and songbirds have long gotten credit for copying human sounds and mastering melodies. Now, seals want some of that clout.
Scientists from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland have taught seals how to sing. In a study published on Thursday in Current Biology, researchers studying vocal learning trained young gray seals to mimic human vocal sounds and carry a tune.
Vocal learning is pretty rare in animals. Many species have a limited set of sounds they can make—like meows or barks—and these often don’t change much throughout their lifetime. In this study, researchers showed that gray seals were able to make completely new sounds after training, unlike any they had made before. In fact, the researchers taught them to mimic human vowel sounds and replicate tunes such as the Star Wars theme and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.
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