Seals trained to sing the ‘Star Wars’ theme – watch the video

25 June 2019, 21:45

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

A team of researchers in Scotland have discovered that grey seals are able to mimic songs and human speech – including the famous ‘Star Wars’ theme.

Grey seals have been trained to sing John Williams’ theme to Star Wars by researchers at the University of St Andrews, in Scotland.

The researchers studied three seals from birth: Zola, Janice and Gandalf.

They established what sounds the seals could make naturally and played the noises back to them. Then, they coaxed them to copy new sounds.

Zola the seal, as well as being able to mimic human vowel sounds, could copy more complex melodies. In a video released by the university (watch above), she manages to bark up to 10 notes of the Star Wars theme tune and ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star’.

Seal taught to sing the 'Star Wars' theme
Seal taught to sing the 'Star Wars' theme. Picture: University of St Andrews

Following the study, researchers from the university’s Scottish Oceans Institute (SOI) think grey seals could be used to study speech disorders.

“I was amazed how well the seals copied the model sounds we played to them,” said Amanda Stansbury, the lead researcher on the project.

“Copies were not perfect but given that these are not typical seal sounds it is pretty impressive.”

The story caught the attention of original Luke Skywalker actor, Mark Hamill, who tweeted the article, writing: “Another royalty for John Williams.”

Stansbury helpfully told NPR that Williams won’t actually get any royalties from the seal project: “Unfortunately, we don’t have any income coming in from this. The seals might be able to share some of their fish while they’re out there, back in the wild. That’s about the only royalties we’re going to have for John Williams.”

We think he deserves a few for this reworked version of the Star Wars opening titles, though…

Seal Star Wars