Thursday, 2 April 2015

Mice sing many different, complex songs, study finds

April 2, 2015

Brett Smith for redOrbit.com – @ParkstBrett

Researchers have known for years that mice sing songs in pitches so high people can’t hear them, but a new statistical tool has allowed Duke University scientists to determine that these songs can be simple or complex, based on the situation.

In other words, move over Alvin.

Complex songs
According to the scientists’ report in the journal Frontiers of Behavioral Neuroscience, mice start ‘singing’ very young when they call for their mother and their songs get more complex as they get older.

Using a syntax analysis of the mice songs, study researchers found that mice sing more intricate and louder songs when they smell a female’s urine but don’t see her. In contrast, the songs are longer and more basic when the males sing to the female in her presence.

“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,” said study author Erich Jarvis, an associate professor of neurobiology at Duke University.

“It was surprising to me how much change occurs to these songs in different social contexts, when the songs are thought to be innate,” he added. “It is clear that the mouse’s ability to vocalize is a lot more limited than a songbird’s or human’s, and yet it’s remarkable that we can find these differences in song complexity.”

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