Courting male mice sing like birds
Male house mice sing like birds to serenade their mates, a study has found.
But don't expect to catch a performance in your kitchen - their high-pitched soprano voices are beyond the range of human hearing.
Austrian scientists made the discovery after slowing down the ultrasonic courtship calls of mice to study them. They found that mouse music bore a "striking" similarity to birdsong.
The vocalisations were complex and personalised, containing "signatures" that differed from one tiny crooner to another. Until recently, it was assumed the sounds made by male mice were no more than high-pitched squeaks.
Previous studies by the same group confirmed that male house mice sing when they pick up a female's scent, and that females are attracted to their songs. Females were able to distinguish between their own brothers' songs and those of unrelated males, even when hearing their siblings sing for the first time.
The findings are reported in the journal Physiology & Behaviour and the Journal of Ethology.
Songs of wild mice differ from those of inbred laboratory strains, the scientists found. Wild male mice produced more syllables within high frequency ranges, which is thought to be a genetic effect.
Further research is needed to see if, as in some birds, male mice with the most complex songs are most successful at wooing mates.
"It seems as though house mice might provide a new model organism for the study of song in animals," said study author Dr Dustin Penn, from the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna.
Dr Penn's group used digital audio software to analyse features such as duration, pitch and frequency in the songs of wild-caught male mice.