If I Could Talk to the Human Animals

All of us who live with and love animals have, at one time (or many), wished we could more clearly understand them. Cynics will of course argue against, but readers of this column are among those who would likely agree that we are by no means the only species capable of expressing our thoughts in language. The question isn't, "Do other species communicate?" Instead, the question is, "Why can't we understand each other?"

A paper published earlier this week may show that we're not the only animal wishing we could talk with a species other than our own. In their article in the on-line Current Biology, researchers from the National Marine Mammal Foundation recorded the sounds of a captive Beluga whale, both under and above water; sounds which are so convincingly like a conversation between two humans that the divers who first heard them thought they were being given instructions by other divers.

The researchers believe the whale was purposely mimicking sounds overheard due to his proximity to us chatty Homo sapiens. How hard is it to accept the possibility that he was reaching out to see if we were, like him, animals capable of speech rather than simply making noise..?

You can check out the article and, wonderfully, hear the whale's own experiment in human speech by going to http://bit.ly/X3sE1B