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Male mice use a variety of ultrasonic "love songs" to woo females — including a complex song for when they smell but do not see a female, and a longer, simpler tune for when they lay eyes on their potential lady love, scientists said Wednesday.
"I do think there is more going on with animal communication than we humans have been attuned to," Duke University neurobiology professor Erich Jarvis said. "There is a clear communication signal in the mouse songs, and not just random sequences of vocalizations."
The researchers compared the songs to the courtship songs of male songbirds, although mice are more limited in their ability to modify their tunes. The mouse songs are a sequence of utterances, or syllables, strung together, at times with a tempo. "Those songs are really high in pitch, above 50 kilohertz, and are not audible to humans. When we pitch them down and play back at real speed, it sounds like a bird," Duke postdoctoral fellow Jonathan Chabout added.
Scientists have known for decades that mice make such sounds — for example, when a pup calls for its mother — and they're trying to better understand what the mice are saying. For the latest experiment, researchers exposed male lab mice to different situations, recorded their songs, and then analyzed them. The results were published in the journal Frontiers of Behavioral Neuroscience.
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