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1-min read

Researchers Teach Seals To Sing ‘Star Wars’ Theme and ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star’

Researchers have taught three young gray seals to sing the opening bars of the Star Wars theme and "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star."

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Updated:June 26, 2019, 12:46 PM IST
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Researchers Teach Seals To Sing ‘Star Wars’ Theme and ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star’
Image credits: Screenshot from YouTube.
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Researchers have taught three young gray seals to sing the opening bars of the Star Wars theme and "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star."

Zola, Janice and Gandalf were trained by researchers from the University of St. Andrews for a year from the time of their birth at the Scottish Oceans Institute.

“The seals were first trained to copy sequences of their own sounds, and then create melodies in their pitch. Human vowel sounds were later presented to the animals, which they then copied,” according to a New Scientist report.

“It takes hundreds of trials to teach the seal what we want it to do, but once they get the idea they can copy a new sound pretty well at the first attempt,” said the study’s co-author Vincent Janik.

While Janice and Gandalf were pretty good at mimicking human vowel sounds, it was Zola who emerged as the real star, singing the first ten notes of the Star Wars theme and “Twinkle, Twinkle.”

The research has been published in the journal Current Biology.

“The first time that you hear them actually imitate something recognizable back, it just blows you away,” first author Amanda Stansbury, now at the El Paso Zoo, was quoted as saying by NPR.

Stansbury and Janik were interested in finding out how Seal vocalizations were made.

As human-generated noise increases across the ocean, knowing how seals use vocalization in the wild is important for species conservation, according to a Gizmodo report.

Since seals make their sounds using techniques similar to what humans use to speak, the study could provide insights into vocal learning in mammals, including humans.

“The anatomical structures used for producing vocalizations such as the vocal cords, larynx, and mouth cavities are the same for seals and humans,” Janik told Gizmodo.

“Other vocal learners use different structures. Birds, for example, do not have a larynx but a different structure called a syrinx to produce sounds. Dolphins use muscles in their nasal air passages to produce learned sounds.”

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