Orca whales are magnificent creatures in every regard; they are highly intelligent, enormous in stature, and dynamite dressers! One look at that sleek black and white exterior and you can see what’s so killer about these whales. Even penguins try to cop their style, but they aren’t fooling anyone; we all saw Free Willy way before Happy Feet. Now there’s evidence showcasing a new interesting skill of killer whales. University of San Diego graduate student Whitney Musser and Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute senior research scientist Dr. Ann Bowles have reported that killer whales are actually able to learn the language of other species. This makes them seem eerily intelligent, and I almost suspect they have been keeping their intuitive skills under wraps from us for so long because they are planning a secret uprising against humans, or something less ominous, like a surprise party where they tell us how to solve global warming.
Before I get ahead of myself, let me tell you now that killer whales are not able to speak English, or any other people language, just yet. Unless they are in fact being totally shady with us on purpose, as I prematurely anticipated. For now, they have only divulged to us their ability to understand and mimic the language of bottlenose dolphins, which are essentially just smaller less-murdery whales that wear out-dated greyscale fashions. I’m unsure how the scientists who conducted this study learned the language of bottlenose dolphins, but I guess there’s a Rosetta stone for everything these days!
The use of nonvocal communication between cetaceans seems like something a lot of people could benefit from learning. I’ve actually developed a type of sonar I use at home by aggressively stomping my feet when I go upstairs. The vibration of my excessively loud march, coupled with the visual account of me no longer being downstairs, signals to my husband that I am going upstairs. We are pretty highly in-tune as a couple, and employ several methods of nonverbal messaging, including the use of iPhone emojicons. We also have our own version of echolocation where we geotag our Instagram posts to let one another know where we are, in the event that we aren’t within screaming distance of each other. Of course, there are times when my vibrations seem to go in one blowhole and out the other, but overall we get along quite swimmingly together.
Perhaps we need to work on figuring out their language, and then we can attempt to enroll some of the more intellectual sea life into underwater ESL (English as a Second Language) courses. Having a verbal conversation with a killer whale has been at the top of my bucket list for a while, so hopefully scientists can keep the ball rolling on their aquatic language studies.