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The phrases included "hello", "ah ha", "one, two", "Amy", and "bye, bye". It can also blow raspberries.

Whales are among the few animals other than humans that can learn to produce a sound just by hearing it.

"We wanted to study vocal imitation because it's a hallmark of human spoken language, which is in turn important for human cultural evolution", said José Zamorano-Abramson, who led the study as a postdoctoral researcher at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile.

Interestingly, DTW analysis showed that in some cases, Wikie's mimicry of unfamiliar sounds was better than her mimicry of familiar ones, the scientists noted.

New research, complete with haunting recordings, shows that orcas are shockingly good at imitating human speech.

An worldwide team of researchers has just published a study demonstrating the talking abilities of 14-year-old Wikie, who lives at Marineland Aquarium in Antibes, France.

That may depend on whether you think speaking requires the transmission of meaning, but a new study confirms that killer whales can definitely "speak" the same sounds as humans, imitating words like "hello", "bye bye", and "one, two".

The learning of culture, including vocal traditions, "is a key capability in the intertwining lives of killer whales", he said, "and one that is critically harmed in captivity", where animals are isolated and unable to develop the depth of emotions they would in the wild. Researchers suspected this was the case, but hadn't gathered enough evidence of orcas learning and mimicking sounds.

The researchers had taught the calf new sounds and then prompted Wikie to imitate them. First Wikie listened to three familiar sounds and five unknown sounds uttered by another live whale or through a speaker.

"Killer whales use their blowhole to make noises, nearly like speaking out of your nose, so we were not expecting it to be flawless", Dr Jose Abramson, a researcher at the Complutense University of Madrid, who led the study, told The Independent.

"But we were surprised by how close it was". It has been done before with a famous grey parrot and dolphins using American sign language; sentences like "bring me this object" or "put this object above or below the other".

Ask any former cetacean trainer why they walked away from their dream jobs, and somewhere in the list of reasons will be the frustration of trying to do right by the animals in their care.

A killer whale has been taught to speak human words through her blowhole. Additionally, Wikie mimicked the sounds with her head above water, so the next step would be to perform a similar test with wild orcas underwater. Both bottlenose dolphins and beluga whales have been observed copying noises they are exposed to.

"After one has done it, one of the next questions is, can all killer whales do it?"

Essentially, they showed that orcas are capable of mimicking sounds they had never heard before, and learn fast, too.