British scientists have taught a group of seals how to copy human sounds and one of them how to sing the popular lullaby Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.
Researchers from the University of St. Andrews worked with three young gray seals from birth to determine their natural repertoire and say that the research could help others to study speech impairments.
The seals were then trained to copy new sounds such as vowels and melodies, by changing their formants, the parts of human speech that encode the most information that we transfer to each other.
One stamp, named Zola, was & # 39; very good & # 39; on the musical side of things – correctly copying up to 10 notes from songs, including the classic jingle of & # 39; Twinkle, Twinkle & # 39 ;.
British scientists have taught a group of seals how to copy human sounds and sing songs, including Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star – and now the research could help others to study speech impairments
The study, published in the journal Current biology, discovered that the seals used their vocal tract in the same way as us – unlike our closest relatives in the animal world, monkeys and monkeys.
Scientists who are currently working on disorders can use stamps as a new model system to identify the & # 39; nature vs. element. nurture & # 39; to study our speech development.
Researchers Dr. Amanda Stansbury and Professor Vincent Janik of the Scottish Oceans Institute (SOI) in St. Andrews collaborated on the project.
They learned to sing the seals by playing sounds close to their natural range of voices before they were rewarded if they had successfully copied them.
Dr. Stansbury, who now works at the El Paso Zoo in Texas, said: & I was surprised how well the stamps copied the model sounds we played for them.
& # 39; Copies were not perfect, but given that these are not typical seal sounds, it is pretty impressive.
& # 39; Our study really shows how flexible seal vocalisations are. Previous studies have only provided anecdotal evidence for this. & # 39;
Professor Janik, director of the SOI, said: & # 39; This study gives us a better understanding of the evolution of vocal learning, a skill that is crucial for the development of human language. & # 39;
He added: “Surprisingly, non-human primates have very limited capabilities in this area.
& # 39; Finding other mammals who use their voice in the same way we use to adjust sounds, informs us about how vocal skills are influenced by genetics and learning and can ultimately help in developing new methods to study speech disorders & # 39;
If seals separate from their mothers when they are only two or three weeks old, the findings suggest that they can be used to study speech disorders and test different methods for slower learners, the researchers said.
The study, published in the journal Current Biology, discovered that the seals used their vocal tract in the same way as us – unlike our closest relatives in the animal world, monkeys and monkeys.
& # 39; Because seals use the same neural and anatomical structures as humans to produce these sounds, they provide a good model system to study how speech sounds are learned & # 39 ;, said professor Janik.
& # 39; Because they divorce their mothers so early, we can determine what exactly they hear when, which makes such investigations much easier than with people who exchange sounds with parents all the time for all their development. & # 39;
A seal named Hoover was documented by copying human speech – including sentences such as & # 39; how are you? & # 39; – in the New England aquarium in Boston, Massachusetts in the 1980s.
However, this does not necessarily mean that the mammals could learn to talk like humans.
Professor Janik added: & # 39; While seals can copy such sentences, they would not know what they mean.
& # 39; We should investigate whether they are able to vocally label objects, which is an essential requirement to actually talk about things.
& # 39; Our study suggests that they have the production skills to produce human language. Whether they can understand it would be the next question. & # 39;
. (TagsToTranslate) Dailymail (t) sciencetech