Male mice sing different songs in different contexts when courting lady mice, saving their best stuff for females they haven't even met yet.
That's according to new research out of Duke University that documented male mice changing their tunes, literally, as social contexts changed. And the kicker? The fancy tunes were, perhaps no surprise, a hit with the ladies (and, hey, they could always blame the drummer if things did not go well).
The news isn't just of interest to fans of singing mice. The findings, and further study on what mice can or can't do vocally, may have implications for autism spectrum disorders in humans, say the researchers.
Mice "sing" using what are called "ultrasonic vocalizations" -- high-pitched sounds that escape the human ear. To listen in on them, the researchers used special microphones to record male mice singing in two social contexts: smelling, but not seeing, a female; and interacting with her in person (as it were).
In the first case, the male was presented with female urine to sniff, but there was no lady in sight for him to woo. So what's a mouse in the mood to do? Sight unseen, the male sang to his intended a loud, complex song (defined by the scientists as a series of utterances or syllables, sometimes with a tempo).
In the second case, the female was placed in the same container with the male. Finally whisker-to-whisker with the object of his desire, the romeo mouse sang longer, simpler, quieter songs. (The video below offers a chance to compare the male's vocal chops in both cases.)