It is known that mice are able to sing ultrasonic melodies, far above the hearing range of humans, but they may also be capable of adapting their voices and learning new tunes, according to new research published in PLOS ONE. This finding may put mice in a different category, among humans, birds and a handful of mammals such as whales and elephants, the only ones capable of “vocal learning”.
The researchers found that, when put together, the mice tend to match the pitch of their songs, especially when there is a female present.
‘When we put a female in the cage with two males, we then found that one male would change his pitch to match the other,’ said co-author Erich D. Jarvis, of Duke University Medical Center. ‘It was usually the smaller animal changing the pitch to match the larger animal.’
Until now, it was thought that mice’s vocalizing was innate, but this research may show a different perspective. ‘The mouse brain and behavior for vocal communication is not as primitive and as innate as myself and many other scientists have considered it to be,’ Erich Jarvis told LiveScience. ‘Mice have more similarities in their vocal communication with humans than other species like our closest relatives.’
Gustavo Arriaga, Eric P. Zhou, & Erich D. Jarvis (2012). Of Mice, Birds, and Men: The Mouse Ultrasonic Song System Has Some Features Similar to Humans and Song-Learning Birds PLOS ONE : 10.1371/journal.pone.0046610