Whale language AI breakthrough

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Researchers led by Gašper Beuš from the University of California, Berkeley, have made a significant breakthrough in understanding whale language, specifically the vocalizations of sperm whales. The team used artificial intelligence (AI) to identify previously unknown elements of whale vocalizations that may be analogous to human speech. Beuš had previously developed a deep learning model for human language called fiwGAN, which was trained to imitate sperm whale codas and embed information into these vocalizations. Codas are sequences of clicks that sperm whales use to communicate. The AI model was able to predict elements of whale vocalizations already thought to be meaningful, such as clicks, but it also singled out acoustic properties. To further investigate the AI's findings, the researchers analyzed a dataset of 3,948 sperm whale codas recorded with hydrophones placed directly on whales between 2014 and 2018. They only analyzed one channel from the hydrophones to control for underwater effects and whale movement, and removed click timing from their visualization to better isolate patterns in the acoustic properties themselves. The researchers discovered that the acoustic properties of these clicks, such as pitch, are "on many levels analogous to human vowels and diphthongs," which is when one vowel sound morphs into another such as in the word “coin”. They even identified two unique "coda vowels" that are "actively exchanged" in conversation between whales, which they termed the a-vowel and i-vowel. This breakthrough suggests that the communication of sperm whales is much more complex and can carry more information than previously thought. The findings could potentially open up new avenues for understanding and communicating with these majestic creatures. However, it's important to note that this research is still in its early stages and further studies are needed to confirm and expand upon these findings.
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