The Seals That Are Making A Musical Splash

These fresh honks are coming to a top ten playlist near you.

Every generation has its singing greats. Ella Fitzgerald, Patsy Cline, Adele, and now, Zola the honking seal.

Researchers from the University of St Andrews have been training three grey seals to ‘sing’ (honk) a tune and by Jove, they’ve done it.

Why is this important? Let’s have a look at the ‘highlights’ section of the study:

  • Vocal learning is crucial for language acquisition but relatively rare in animals
  • We tested whether gray seals can copy melodies and human formants
  • Seals were versatile vocal learners copying vowels and peak frequency of melodies
  • Seals used the same supra-laryngeal structures as humans when copying model sounds

There’s always one singer in every pop group that can sing better than the others and has a long and healthy solo career ahead of them. It turns out the real star of this parade of semiaquatic hitmakers is a seal called ‘Zola’ who was the best at pumping out the tunes (honks). Including a little bit of the Star Wars theme. Behold the beautiful popstars of tomorrow:

A bit more training is probably required before a collab with Diplo is on the cards, but it’s still an improvement on this seal:

It’s not all just fun and honks, the study give us an insight into the evolution of our own vocal learning and language development. And it could even help us understand our own speech disorders.

Either way, use of the Star Wars theme equates to severe copyright infringement and Zola’s going to have to pay up now or face the full force of Disney’s lawyers. Sorry Zola, you’ll have to write an original next time.