Singing Mice – Song

Music
Ambience: Mouse song transposed

Alright, so it might not make the Billboard charts, but according to scientists we’re listening to a song. A song sung by a mouse, with the recording slowed down so that we can hear these high frequency sounds. I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Dr. Timothy Holy studies singing mice as a professor of neurology at Washington University in St. Louis. Now, when he first discovered this mouse warbling, there was something of a debate as to whether or not the sounds qualify as a song.

“Scientists tend to use “song” to describe certain kinds of animal communication. And, in fact, even in science, there’s no universal definition of song. We had to go back quite far in the literature to even find a definition. But, I think the way in which people tend to use the term really has several elements to it. One is that the sounds should be complex in some way. There should be some diversity to the sounds they make, and those sounds should fall into different types you should be able to recognize; that they’re not just random noises, but that in fact you can classify them. The second important part is that these go on over time, sometimes extensively; mice will sing, actually, for ten minutes at a time in many cases. And there turns out to be a pattern to their singing, so they’ll use one syllable for a while and then they’ll shift to another syllable. And certain syllables tend to be used at the beginning of a phrase, whereas others are used more in the middle of a phrase. In time the songs are structured in some of the ways, for instance, that you find in birds. So, for example, there are cases where you can see what’s often called a motif. It’s a certain sequence of sounds that’s repeated several times within a song. That said, they also improvise.”

Alright, so if they’re songs, why are the mice singing? We’ll find out in future programs. Or visit our website at pulseplanet.com. Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.

Singing Mice - Song

Scientists say that the complexity and repetition of mouse vocalizations make them more than random squeaks.
Air Date:10/03/2006
Scientist:
Transcript:

Music
Ambience: Mouse song transposed

Alright, so it might not make the Billboard charts, but according to scientists we're listening to a song. A song sung by a mouse, with the recording slowed down so that we can hear these high frequency sounds. I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet. Dr. Timothy Holy studies singing mice as a professor of neurology at Washington University in St. Louis. Now, when he first discovered this mouse warbling, there was something of a debate as to whether or not the sounds qualify as a song.

"Scientists tend to use "song" to describe certain kinds of animal communication. And, in fact, even in science, there's no universal definition of song. We had to go back quite far in the literature to even find a definition. But, I think the way in which people tend to use the term really has several elements to it. One is that the sounds should be complex in some way. There should be some diversity to the sounds they make, and those sounds should fall into different types you should be able to recognize; that they're not just random noises, but that in fact you can classify them. The second important part is that these go on over time, sometimes extensively; mice will sing, actually, for ten minutes at a time in many cases. And there turns out to be a pattern to their singing, so they'll use one syllable for a while and then they'll shift to another syllable. And certain syllables tend to be used at the beginning of a phrase, whereas others are used more in the middle of a phrase. In time the songs are structured in some of the ways, for instance, that you find in birds. So, for example, there are cases where you can see what's often called a motif. It's a certain sequence of sounds that's repeated several times within a song. That said, they also improvise."

Alright, so if they're songs, why are the mice singing? We'll find out in future programs. Or visit our website at pulseplanet.com. Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation. I'm Jim Metzner.