Mice serenade each other with love songs hoping to attract a partner and women prefer a tune with a nice rhythm
- Female mice were played recordings of male mice singing courtship songs
- Some of the tracks played on the mice were natural recordings and others were edited
- The edited tracks include artificial stuttering, skipping and order changes
Mice serenade each other with love songs hoping to attract a partner and females prefer a tune with a nice rhythm, a new study finds.
Researchers from University College London played recordings of female mice from male mice singing a “love song” and following how they reacted to the sounds.
They discovered that the women cared more about the rhythm of the sound that is sung on ultrasonic frequencies than about the order of the “words.”
The team played the mice real recordings and digitally modified versions where the mice reacted poorly to the addition of ‘stutter’ on the courtship stamp.
A few harvest mice seen in this stock image. The team discovered that mice used songs such as ultrasonic vocalisations to attract a partner
The team also discovered that mice “singing” is about the same as the way other mammals speak – including humans and monkeys.
The study, which has not yet been assessed by peers, is based on other research that found that male mice produce flute-like rhythmic vocalizations.
This new research expands that and plays those “courtship” sounds for female mice to follow their reactions and see what it is like with the songs they like.
“Scientists sometimes make assumptions about how animals perceive the world without considering their natural behavior,” said lead author Dr. Catherine Perrodin.
“Here we immediately asked the mice which components of mouse love songs they are interested in – they showed us what was important to them by approaching the sources of the sounds they liked best.”
The researchers presented the mice with real recordings and others that were adjusted to change certain dimensions.
In some recordings they changed the rhythm (temporal regularity), syllable order or the qualities of the syllables themselves.
“We discovered that female mice are very sensitive to disturbances in the rhythmic regularity of the songs,” said Dr. Perrodin.
‘They don’t like irregular, artificially’ stuttering ‘versions of court songs. Changing the syllable structure or order did not seem that important to them. “
Animals navigating the real world face a barrage of complicated sounds that their brains have developed to compress and filter for sounds that are relevant to survival.
An example of this is communication signals, because both social interactions and a number of mammals use acoustically complex vocalisations.
Little is known about what information listeners derive from the sensory currents, and so they investigated how mice respond to one sound.
The researchers presented the mice with real recordings and others that were adapted to change certain dimensions (stock image)
Dr. Perrodin said that mouse songs have the same characteristics as human speech, in the sense that they follow a similar rhythm when they are spoken.
“By studying animal communication, we learn which acoustic characteristics of vocal sounds are important to mammals, to which their brains can give priority.”
The team discovered that female mice listen selectively to the rhythm of male songs when listening to someone to mate with.
They hope to be able to take what they have learned by studying responses to mouse song and applying it to how people’s brains evolved the ability to communicate.
A non-peer-reviewed pre-print of the paper has been published on BioRxiv.
WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT WHALE SONG?
For a long time it was believed that whales sang exclusively for mating.
But some experts suggest that the songs also help mammals explore their environment.
Researchers have included humpback whales that change their calling when they go to new pastures to match the numbers of others around them.
By learning these songs, whales can find each other better and group better in unknown waters.
Researchers have included humpback whales that change their calling when they go to new pastures to match the songs of others around them (file photo)
It is difficult for scientists to study how whales sing because the shy animals are notoriously difficult to observe and each species vocalizes differently.
Humpback whales sing with folds in the vocal box that vibrate at low frequencies when air is pushed over them.
It has been suggested that they have special air pockets in addition to these vocal cords that connect to the lungs.
This allows the whales to let air through their lungs, the pouches and the vocal cords without losing their precious air supply.