It has been previously confirmed that male mice sing, or use vocalizations, to attract their mates. However, a recent study using specialized microphones found that female mice sing back - but only if they're interested.
Joshua Neunuebel, assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences at the University of Delaware, explained in a news release that these "songs" cannot be heard by humans because they register at a range of 35 to 120 kilohertz; the highest range humans can detect sound is approximately 20 kilohertz. By using a sound system Neunuebel developed, his researchers were able to determine – with 97% accuracy – which sound came from which mouse. Moreover, they discovered that female mice were singing along.
For their study, Neunuebel's researchers studied four mice, two males and two females, that were enclosed in an acoustically precise area. The mice were fitted with tracking devices and microphones were also placed inside their chamber. In addition to being able to pinpoint vocalizations from particular mice, researchers found that females who responded to a potential mate's song also slowed down to meet up with their mate; in contrast, less-interested females scurried away.
The researchers hope to further decode the mice messages, in order to better understand their social communication.
"We are just scratching the surface," Neunuebel said in a statement.
The study holds potential applications for much broader areas of research, including better understanding of the human brain. Neunuebel's findings were recently published in the journal eLife.
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