The stamps were taught to sing the theme "Star Wars"



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Three young gray seals were monitored from birth to see what sounds they could produce naturally and then trained to copy new sounds, according to a university statement.

A label, Zola, proved to be particularly adept at copying melodies.

She was able to copy up to 10 song notes as the theme "Star Wars" and "Twinkle twinkle little star".

Researchers Amanda Stansbury and Vincent Janik of the University's Scottish Ocean Institute (SOI) believe that gray seals can be used to study speech disorders.

"I was amazed at how well the seals copied the sounds of the model we played for them," Stansbury, the project's principal investigator, said in a statement.

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"The copies were not perfect, but since these are not typical stamp sounds, it's pretty impressive," she said.

The study improves our understanding of the evolution of vocal learning, which is key to language development, according to Janik, who is the director of SOI.

There are very few mammals, such as whales, dolphins and elephants, which can copy human sounds, but they use different mechanisms, Janik said, and our close relatives, chimpanzees and gorillas, have surprisingly limited vocal abilities.

"Seals are the only mammals we know now that use the same mechanisms," Janik told CNN.

"Finding other mammals that use the vocal tract in the same way we do to modify sounds tells us how vocal abilities are influenced by genetics and learning and can help develop new methods for studying speech disorders," he said in a note .

The study also suggests that stamp communications may be more complex than previously thought, Janik told CNN.

"If you have a bigger vocabulary, you can communicate about more content," he said, adding that researchers will use the study to further investigate seal communications.

The full results of the research are published in the journal Current Biology.

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