Mice have been serenading their mates for quite some time, however, only recently, these love songs that resemble a sweet twittering have been made available for our listening pleasure.
“As quiet as a mouse” is a literal adage since mice are known for their exceptional stealth and silence. But, when it comes to mating, these creatures are not just vocal, they are downright musical. Just like birds chirp sweet songs to their mates, mice too, call out to their prospective mates by singing.
Interestingly, these songs are sung in ultrasonic frequencies, which needless to say, is beyond our limited capacity of hearing. Fortunately, a new study by researchers at Duke University in the U.S. has recorded male mice singing to their prospective mates, we’ll never hear without some technological assistance.
Though scientists were aware that mice sing songs to each other at ultrasonic frequencies, only recently a few have made the effort to analyze all the different chirps, pips, twitters, and squeaks that make up these incredibly complex tunes. Researchers at Duke, led by biologist Jonathan Chabout, lured male mice with the prospect of a female and recorded their songs sung at ultrasonic frequencies.
Since mice have an acute sense of smell, the female was in reality, just a waft of female urine that gave all the “right signals” of being “in heat.” Ignoring the apparent tragedy of mice trying to serenade pee, the researchers found that when the scent of the female was present, the males sang a much louder and more complex series of songs made up of intricate and repeating patterns, than when faced with an actual female.
This clearly suggests, mice are more willing to expend the extra energy to draw a mate closer, said author Erich Jarvis, an associate professor of neurobiology at Duke University and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator.
“We think this has something to do with the complex song being like a calling song, and then when he sees the female, he switches to a simpler song in order to save energy to chase and try to court her at the same time. It was surprising to me how much change occurs to these songs in different social contexts, when the songs are thought to be innate. It is clear that the mouse’s ability to vocalize is a lot more limited than a songbird’s or humans’, and yet it’s remarkable that we can find these differences in song complexity.”
[Image Credit | Teresa Kasprzycka | Shutterstock]