Friday, November 04, 2005

Mice sing like birds?

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis recently published their discovery that male mice sing when they detect pheromones. Here's the synopsis and the entire article.

The synopsis says, "Much of what we know about the biology of song and song learning comes from research on songbirds, but birds are difficult subjects for genetic studies. Song commonly figures in courtship rituals among birds, insects, and frogs, but such behavior in mammals had been restricted to whales, bats, and humans. Evidence of similar behavior in the mouse—a long-established genetic model, often referred to as the pocket human—could open whole new avenues of research into the genetic contributions to song and song learning."

The online synopsis also provides a link to a recording of "mousesong."

Further down, it says, "The males produced rapid “chirp-like” syllables of varying duration, spaced at about ten syllables per second, with a burst of closely spaced syllables followed by periods of silence. Some of the syllables showed sudden, significant changes in frequency (or pitch)—all in keeping with previous reports. To determine whether these frequency jumps, or pitch changes, followed a stereotyped pattern or occurred randomly, the authors first analyzed a set of 750 syllables produced by one mouse in a single 210-second trial. They identified discrete clusters of pitch changes, including two clusters with stereotyped jumps to or from a low frequency, which they called low jumps. Repeating the trial and analysis with 45 different mice produced similar results, indicating that the pitch changes are a universal feature of mouse ultrasonic vocalizations."

Intriguing, isn't it?

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