According to research from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, seals are capable of learning and imitating songs. For your information, this is someone’s job, which has goals. Wild seals are highly intelligent, curious and have good coordination, learning tricks easily in captivity. They give great insight into learning and the animal world. Because of this, researchers trained seals to sing the Star Wars theme. Of course!
The study, published in the journal Current Biology, monitored three grey seals, which were observed from birth and were taught how to mimic sounds. Some of these seals grew to be so good at imitating that they were capable of replicating human sounds. Zola, the most talented seal of the bunch, was able to aptly mimic melodies like ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ and the ‘Star Wars’ Theme.
“I was amazed how well the seals copied the model sounds we played to them. Copies were not perfect but given that these are not typical seal sounds it is pretty impressive,” said lead researcher Amanda Stansbury in an interview with BBC. “Our study really demonstrates how flexible seal vocalizations are. Previous studies just provided anecdotal evidence for this.”
Studies conducted on these type of mammals are looking to understand how vocal learning works. “Finding other mammals that use their vocal tract in the same way as us to modify sounds informs us on how vocal skills are influenced by genetics and learning and can ultimately help to develop new methods to study speech disorders,” said Professor Vincent Janik.
Janik explained that while the study is exciting, it’s impossible to tell from it if mammals could ever learn how to speak like humans. “We would have to investigate whether they are able to label objects vocally, which is a key requirement for actually talking about things.” So, while seals may soon learn how to sing Beyoncé, we would have no way of knowing if they understand the lyrics, which is ultimately the basis of human communication.
Not sure if you can get the trained seals to sing the Star Wars theme at parties yet.