May 21 – Funny Accent

Today’s Factismal: There are over twenty different dialects of orca.

If you’ve ever traveled far from home, then you know that people can sound different in different places. People in Utica will tell you that they live in “Noh Yawk” and folks from Nagidotches will say that they are from “Tex-AS” while dudes from Los Angeles will inform you that they surf “Cah-LEE-forn-ya”. These regional differences in speech are called dialects, and include such things as word choice (a hero is a grinder is a sub) and pronunciation (“pahk the cah in Boston”). But what travelling may not have told you is that even animals have dialects.

A penguin's-eye view of an orca (Image courtesy National geographic)

A penguin’s-eye view of an orca
(Image courtesy National Geographic)

A squirrel in New York City speaks with a different dialect than one from Oklahoma City. A firefly in Tennessee flashes its message of love in a different pattern than one in Virginia. And, most surprising of all, an orca in Seattle uses a different set of whistles and clicks than one in Norway. Scientists currently think that the different orca dialects indicate families that have passed on their special language from generation to generation. But where it can be very hard to hear a squirrel or a firefly, it is relatively easy to listen in on an orca’s family chats.

An orca from South America (Image courtesy Mlwelan)

An orca from South America
(Image courtesy Mlewan)

What isn’t easy is classifying the chats and identifying the families from them. It takes time and, more importantly, ears (either human or orca) to tell the different families apart. If you’d like to give it a try, then head on over to Whale FM where they have recordings of orca families all over the world.

One thought on “May 21 – Funny Accent

  1. Pingback: May 11 – Say What? | Little facts about science

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