And you thought those singing mice in Babe were just movie magic.
It turns out not only that mice can pour forth sweet music, but that they can lean new songs in different keys, reports the BBC. Instead of singing in three-part harmony, however, scientists have discovered that male mice housed together actually learn to sing in unison — on the same pitch.
It’s long been known that male mice serenade their ladies during courtship. But until now, it was believed that the little mammals were essentially a broken record; they couldn’t change the order or pitch of their piece. The new research, published in the journal Plos One, suggests that mice may indeed modify their melodies — a talent previously thought to be confined to songbirds, whales, dolphins, sea lions, bats, elephants and humans.
The researchers from Duke University also found that the mice are using the same part of their brain to vocalize that humans do. ”In mice we find that the pathways that are at least modulating these vocalisations are in the forebrain, in places where you actually find them in humans,” lead researcher Dr. Erich Jarvis told the BBC. Their skills, he says, are intermediate “between a chicken and a song bird or even a nonhuman primate and a human.”
So does this mean you’ll be able to hear (and perhaps hum along) to mouse music? Unfortunately not: their ultrasonic songs are inaudible to the human ear.
To listen to a recording of male mouse seductions songs modified so humans can listen in, pop on over to the BBC.