If there is a mouse in the house he's probably singing love songs

For lovers of whimsy, the 1970s TV show Bagpuss was a delight, not least because it featured mice who sang in falsetto tones.

But it seems those animated rodents were closer to the real world than we imagined.

Scientists have discovered that far from being quiet, mice are actually born with an innate love of singing.

When a male comes across a potential mate, he bursts into a complex series of loud chirps and whistles that sound remarkably like birdsong.

Although the ultrasonic calls are too high-pitched for the human ear to pick up, the love songs allow females to weigh up the most suitable father for their offspring.

Scientists have previously known that mice emit squeaks that are inaudible to humans. In 2005, U.S. researchers discovered that these noises are made up of repeated phrases just like the songs of birds and whales.

Since then, researchers have been trying to find out whether the songs are programmed into the brains of mice from birth, or whether they learn them from their mothers.

Now a team of Japanese scientists has found the answer. They used two strains of laboratory mice with distinct songs. Males from each strain were raised in litters of the opposite strain until they were weaned.

At the age of ten to 20 weeks their calls were recorded and analysed. Dr Takefumi Kikusui, who led the study, told journal PLoS that the mice sang the songs of their biological parents – not their foster mothers.



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