Scientists uncovering origins of singing miceAugust 12th, 2012 - 5:45 pm ICT by IANS
Washington, Aug 12 (IANS) Singing mice have tawny brown fur instead of the common white albino strain; they hail from tropical cloud forests in the mountains of Costa Rica, and they use songs to communicate.
University of Texas-Austin researcher Steven Phelps is examining these unconventional rodents to gain insights into the genes that contribute to the unique singing behaviour - information that could help scientists understand and identify genes that affect language in humans.
“We can choose any number of traits to study but we try and choose traits that are not only interesting for their own sake but also have some biomedical relevance,” said Phelps. “We take advantage of the unique property of the species.”
The song of the singing mouse song is a rapid-fire string of high-pitched chirps called trills used mostly used by males in dominance displays and to attract mates, the journals Hormones and Behaviour and Animal Behaviour report.
Up to 20 chirps are squeaked out per second, sounding similar to birdsong to untrained ears. But unlike birds, the mice generally stick to a song made up of only a single note.
“They sound kind of soft to human ears, but if you slow them down by about three-fold, they are pretty dramatic,” said Phelps, according to a Texas statement.
Most rodents make vocalisations at a frequency too high for humans to hear. But other rodents typically don’t vocalise to the extent of singing mice, which use the song to communicate over large distances in the wild, said Andreas George, a graduate student working in Phelps’ lab.
Phelps is now looking deeper: examining the genetic components that influence song expression. Centre stage is a special gene called FOXP2.
“FOXP2 is famous because it is the only gene that has been implicated in human speech disorders specifically,” said Phelps.
- Tiny male mice sing songs to impress females - Jan 29, 2012
- 50m-year-old cricket fossils give clues to insect hearing - Jan 04, 2012
- Weather turns birds into more flexible singers - Aug 05, 2012
- Male mice sing to attract females - Jan 27, 2012
- Easter Island drug boosts memory, learning - Jul 01, 2012
- How human laughter is different from that of apes - Jul 21, 2010
- Mole rat may hold key to human longevity - Jul 03, 2012
- Bats sing love ballads while mating - Aug 26, 2009
- 'Freaky mouse' defeats common poison - Jul 25, 2011
- Genes determine a lot more than just our looks - Nov 08, 2010
- Sparrows twittering louder to be heard - Apr 03, 2012
- Male mice drive females wild with ultrasonic love ballads - Mar 06, 2010
- New book uncovers secret abilities of animals - Aug 16, 2009
- Why chimps can't chat - Nov 12, 2009
- Genes trigger roots of bipolar disorder? - Sep 02, 2012
Tags: animal behaviour, brown fur, centre stage, dominance, foxp2, genes, genetic components, graduate student, hormones, human ears, human speech, mouse song, phelps, rapid fire, rodents, singing mouse, speech disorders, trills, tropical cloud forests, university of texas austin