Sperm whale ‘alphabet’ discovered, thanks to machine learning

Researchers at MIT CSAIL and Project CETI believe that they have unlocked a kind of sperm whale “alphabet” with the aid of machine learning technologies. Results from the study, which were published under the title, “Contextual and Combinatorial Structure in Sperm Whale Vocalizations,” point to key breakthroughs in our understanding of cetacean communication.

The study deals with codas — a series of clicks that serve different linguistic functions. “What we have discovered is that there is previously undescribed variation in the coda structure,” CSAIL director Daniela Rus told TechCrunch. “We have discovered that coda types are not arbitrary, but rather they form a newly discovered combinatory coding system.”