Researchers in California have discovered that the vocal beluga whale has the incredible ability to mimic human speech. A few other animals can also mimic our speech, including parrots, mynahs and Asian elephants.

Belugas are extremely sociable mammals that live, hunt and migrate together in pods, ranging from a few individuals to hundreds of whales. Their bulbous forehead, called a “melon”, is flexible and capable of changing shape. This allows them to make different facial expressions. Belugas can produce a series of chirps, clicks, whistles and squeals, which give the beluga its other name, “the canary of the sea.” They may sound like music or even nonsense to us, but to fellow belugas they convey important information. [photo] [info]