1. ITV Report

Watch the moment seals sing Star Wars and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star after coaching from scientists

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Rebecca Barry

Researchers have found seals can copy noises made by humans, having taught them to 'sing' some well known songs.

Academics at St Andrews University in Scotland taught three of the mammals to mimic various sounds.

Video of the seals 'singing' the songs has made a splash on the internet after being released by the university.

Researchers Dr Amanda Stansbury and Professor Vincent Janik, worked with three young grey seals and monitored them from birth to determine their natural repertoire.

The seals were taught the sounds as part of a study on vocalisation. Credit: St Andrews University

These seals were then trained to copy new sounds by changing their formants, the parts of human speech sounds that encode most of the information we convey to each other.

Lead researcher Dr Stansbury said: "I was amazed how well the seals copied the model sounds we played to them.

"Copies were not perfect but given that these are not typical seal sounds it is pretty impressive. Our study really demonstrates how flexible seal vocalisations are. Previous studies just provided anecdotal evidence for this."

It is not known if the seals will be releasing further renditions, or if they will collaborate with their namesake artist...

What songs are the seals able to sing?

  • Star Wars theme tune
  • Old MacDonald Had A Farm
  • Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
The seals were taught by academics at St Andrews University. Credit: St Andrews University

The university has also faced criticism for the conditions the seals were kept in.

When contacted by ITV News, it said in a statement: "The pools are filled and refreshed with fresh seawater every day and are not dirty. Naturally occurring algae and seaweed, which are part of the seals’ natural habitat are allowed to form in the pools."