Of Mice and Men
Since the dawn of civilisation, mankind has had a long running obsession with the concept of love. It has been the inspiration for millions of poets and song writers, from literary greats to cheesy boy band types. Even I, the humble Wogbeast is familiar with the concept of Love. This romantic inspiration is not just confined to humans, as we know many birds sing songs, mainly to attract mates. It has also been found that some bats sing during courtship, and we are all familiar with Whale songs (especially those of you who have bought tapes from a new age gift shop). Recently scientists have discovered what appear to be romantic musical numbers performed by our most studied mammalian relative – Mice.
Tim Holy and Zhongsheng Guo, of Washington University School of Medicine in St Louis, Missouri discovered these rodent serenades by recording the ultrasonic vocalisations made my male mice exited by the scent of female pheromones. Once recorded, these audio samples were dropped several octaves so that they fell into the audible range of humans.
Under closer inspection, Holy & Co. discovered that the songs included a number of syllable types (collections of notes), and these syllables were arranged into phrases and motifs: fulfilling the definition of a song.
Whilst the purpose of this song is not yet known, it seems likely that it is used to serenade females. "So what are these songs about?" you may be wondering. Well Mr Holy & Co. suggest that if the songs are used to attract lovers, then they are likely to contain information about the males "qualities". They have found some evidence to support this, some parts of the songs are metabolically taxing, suggesting that the stronger males are likely to be the better singers.
Holy hopes that studying the singing mouse will help uncover fundamental principles about the brain, and may eventually help understand disorders of communication, such as autism.
Personally, I don’t really find the concept of mouse love songs surprising. After seeing Crocodiles on TV vibrating in the water to attract a mate who can blame me. However, I’d love to hear some first hand opinions from Mice owners so I’m going to set you some homework. Firstly, save the sound clips below, import them into Sound Forge or whatever and raise the pitch. Then, simply play the rodent love songs to you pet mice and watch for any reactions.
I’m somewhat dubious if this would work because:
I do not know the exact pitch that the songs need to be.
I’m not sure if PC speakers can effectively reproduce the sounds.
Anyway, if anyone manages to do this I’d love to hear about it so post your finding here at the DWB. Here is the links to the mouse love songs and original article:
A male mouse producing a snatch of song: click here
A male mouse producing a more determined croon: click here
Original article: http://www.newscientist.com/channel/life/dn8237.html
Stay tuned for more mildly interesting facts from the DWB, hope you all return soon.