Humans are not the only creatures who try to imitate the sounds of other animals. It turns out that killer whales try to imitate dolphin clicks. But why?

Photo by Monika Wieland via Shutterstock

Over at Seriously, Science?, we learn that a new scientific study has identified a series of calls that killer whales make to imitate dolphin calls:

This study suggests that, given a chance, different species of cetaceans may be able to learn to communicate with each other. Scientists noticed that killer whales who had spent time with bottlenose dolphins incorporated more clicking and whistles in their vocalizations than other whales, making their "language" a mashup of the two. In fact, one whale was able to learn the sounds taught to a dolphin trained by people! Although we don't know what these different languages mean, or how much information is being transmitted between the species, it's clear that these animals are motivated to learn to make each other's sounds.

What we don't know is whether the whales are trying to communicate — or whether these noises are more like the bird calls made by hunters.