A captive female beluga whale appears to have learned to speak the language of dolphins - and to have adopted it in preference to her own.

The four-year-old Arctic cetacean (Delphinapterus leucas) was housed with other belugas until in 2013 she was moved to share a pool with bottlenose dolphins at the Koktebel Dolphinarium in Crimea, the region disputed between Ukraine and Russia.

According to a scientific report published in the journal Animal Cognition, the dolphins were alarmed when the beluga arrived among them, but within days she was fitting in and starting to copy their whistling style of communication.

Within two months she had largely stopped using her own high-pitched “twittering” language.

A research team from the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow analysed more than 90 hours of audio recordings, and noted that the beluga used the dolphins’ signature whistles, the equivalent of addressing individuals by name, and stopped using the contact call normally used by belugas to check in with each other.

The whale’s style of dolphin-speak was set within the first two months and had not altered appreciably when checked after a year - the equivalent of someone speaking a second language with a distinctive accent.

The scientists described the behaviour as “vocal convergence between socially bonded individuals”, but admit to being unclear as to how far the whale understands the dolphins' language or simply mimics them.

Belugas are sociable and known from previous research to be gifted mimics, and as the minority member of the group, the onus was on this one to fit in. The dolphins made no effort to communicate on beluga terms.

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