Mice sing ultrasonic love songs to their sweethearts

If you've ever seen a common domestic mouse, your first thought probably wasn't, "You know, I bet that guy has an amazing singing voice." But it turns out male house mice are rodent crooners, singing ultrasonic love songs to woo females.

That's the finding of researchers at the University of Veterinary Medicine, part of Vienna's Konrad Lorenz Institute of Ethology. We've known for a while that mice make sounds in the ultrasonic range during the mating process, but it was assumed that these were just a bunch of random squeaks. But now that we have recordings of the mice's songs, we can translate them to human auditory range and hear what they really sound like. Turns out, the noises male mice make sound a lot like birdsong.

The researchers found that the males will launch into these songs whenever they pick up on a female's scent. What's more, females can actually tell whether or not the singer is actually their brother, even if they have never heard their sibling sing before. The exact way in which females work this out isn't yet understood, though it may be because siblings tend to all have very similar singing voices. Either way, the scientists suspect this ability is crucial to how female mice avoid inbreeding.

For more, check out the University of Veterinary Medicine. Original papers at Physiology & Behavior and Journal of Ethology. Image by Ruud Hein on Flickr.