Singing Mouse Photo

Researchers at Washington University in St. Louis have discovered that mice sing.

Scientists already knew that mice make ultrasonic sounds-squeaks that are too high-pitched for us to hear without special equipment. But these scientists used microphones and computer software to study the squeaks of 45 male mice.

What's in a song?

The researchers separated the squeaks into types of syllables based on how quickly the pitch rose or fell. The mice "sang" about 10 syllables per second. And almost all of the mice repeated sequences of syllables in clear patterns. None of the mice are Marvin Gaye, exactly, but their noises meet the scientific definition of song. (People, birds, whales, and some insects do the same thing.)

Why sing?

Researchers still have to figure out WHY the mice sing. Because the mice sang in response to pheremones-chemicals that transmit messages between animals of the same species-one guess is that male mice sing to impress females.

Hear the mice singing.

Your Comments, Thoughts, Questions, Ideas

Liza's picture
Liza says:

Tim Holy, one of the authors of the paper cited above, sent me this image. He writes,

singing mousePhoto courtesy Tim Holy

"This is an arranged shot, rather than a true depiction of our experiments, and indeed both mice in the photo are females (whereas we only studied singing in males). The idea behind it was just to 'get the story across' rather than as part of the evidence for this behavior. The yellow smudges are a sonagram, a depiction of the frequency [of the sound] as a function of time."

posted on Wed, 11/30/2005 - 2:56pm
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

This is very interesting I love it.\r\n

posted on Tue, 01/10/2006 - 11:44am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

You should open up a exibhit about music. I bet it would be a big attraction. I'd love it, other people would love it! So try it!

posted on Tue, 01/10/2006 - 11:46am
Liza's picture
Liza says:

The Science Museum of Minnesota and the Association of Science and Technology Centers worked together to create Wild Music, which closes here at the Science Museum on May 13. (Then it tours around the country.) Come on in, if you haven't, and check it out!

posted on Mon, 04/30/2007 - 9:47pm
amber heffron's picture
amber heffron says:

hi my name is Amber I go to Ione junior high school in the CA im in 7th grade and i have to do a science fair project and i wanted to take 4 mice and put them into different tanks and give them different kinds of music like rap, hip-hop,country, and some others. i was hoping that you could be able to help me .

Amber Heffron

posted on Mon, 04/30/2007 - 8:27pm
Liza's picture
Liza says:

Hi, Amber.

The first thing to think about is what effect you might see on the mice--do you have a hypothesis?

And the second thing to think about is how you might measure whatever that effect is. Do you want to see if their heart rate or stress level changes? Do they gain or lose weight? Sleep more or less? Eat more or less? Learn to line dance or "raise the roof"? (I think that measuring the effects of different music genres on mice will be the tricky part.)

Frankly, it might be easier to measure some of these sorts of effects in people than in mice!

Good luck.

posted on Mon, 04/30/2007 - 9:50pm
Amber Heffron's picture
Amber Heffron says:

well i was going to see how long they sleep during the day is that good but how would i collect my data??

thank you for helping me Liza
amber heffron

posted on Thu, 05/10/2007 - 1:35pm
tis-chick-s0-fly's picture
tis-chick-s0-fly says:

I didn't know that mice can sing. That's really cool how a mice can sing 10 syllables per second and they sing to impress a mice women.

posted on Mon, 10/27/2008 - 11:25am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous says:

its vary interesting

posted on Tue, 03/10/2009 - 11:01am

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