The forebrain is the area of the brain responsible for some animals’ ability to mimic speech. A study from the New York Academy of Sciences shows that the neural circuits in the forebrain enable animals to learn new sounds. They subsequently recreate these sounds using the muscles
Alex the Parrot
Alex, an African gray parrot, was the subject of 30 years of research by Dr Irene Pepperberg, an animal psychologist at the University of Harvard. She started the ground-breaking study into the cognitive capacity of parrots in 1977, offering a fresh perspective on intelligence in nonhuman beings. For context, the parrot’s name was an acronym for Avian Learning Experiment. Through Dr Pepperberg’s innovative techniques, Alex mastered basic numbers and understood the notions of none, same/different, and bigger/smaller. The parrot also knew more than one hundred English labels that described items, shapes, colors, and materials.
Lucy the Chimpanzee
The Institute for Primate Studies, University of Oklahoma, owned a two-year-old chimpanzee named Lucy. She was sent to live with Dr Maurice Temerlin, a psychotherapist, and his wife Jane. The Temerlins treated the infant chimp like a human baby. Lucy learned how to eat regular meals using cutlery at the table. She could get dressed on her own and often opted to wear skirts. She could prepare tea for her parents and the researchers who raised and taught her. Dr Robert Fouts taught Lucy about 250 signs from American Sign Language. Dr Fouts was one of the pioneering psychologists who taught Washoe, the chimpanzee to communicate using ASL in 1967.
Wikie the Orca Whale
In 2018, researchers from British, Spanish, Chilean, and German universities published the findings of their study on Wikie, a 14-year-old female Orca living in an aquarium in France. She had been taught to mimic another orca’s actions when a human gesture was shown. Researchers trained Wikie to imitate three easy orca sounds by her three-year-old calf Moana. Then, they exposed her to five additional orca sounds she had never heard, like a creaking door.
Koshik the Elephant
An elephant is definitely not an animal you were expecting to see on a list of amazing animals that can talk like humans! Nevertheless, we couldn’t resist the Korean-speaking ability of the male Indian elephant, Koshik. Footage of the animal at the Everland theme park in Yongin, South Korea, trended in 2012. Although he only used one word in the video chat (good), Koshik can say Korean words like “Annyong” (hello), “Aniya” (no), “Anja” (sit down), and “Nuo” (lie down).
Noc the Beluga Whale
In 1984, scientists at the National Marine Mammal Foundation in San Diego heard what seemed to be human conversation inside a whale tank. Noc, a captive male Beluga whale, was actually making the human-like calls. Noc could mimic a human voice so convincingly that it could trick a diver into believing that someone was yelling at him to leave the water.