White whale learns to speak dolphin in Crimea

White whale learns to speak dolphin in Crimea

9 November 2017

A beluga whale from a Crimean aquarium has learned to imitate bottlenose dolphins’ language.


The four-year-old white whale came to the Koktebel Dophinarium in 2013 and was placed together with a mature male dolphin and three female dolphins.


According to Yelena Panova and Alexander Agafonov, Russian Academy of Sciences researchers in Moscow, two months later, the animal stopped using the loud roar typical for this mammal species, and switched to the dolphins’ language. It began to use different types of whistling, depending on the dolphin it addressed, as if calling them by name.


Dolphins use two types of sounds, whistling and clicking. Clicking is used for echolocation and the whistling for communicating with other dolphins. The whistling is what the white whale picked up. It is unclear whether it understands what it is saying or whether it is just copying the dolphins, but this is doubtless a social advantage of beluga whales, which was earlier unknown. Dolphins have also tried to imitate the white whale’s language but with little success.