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5 Animals You Didn’t Know Can Sing

5 Animals You Didn’t Know Can Sing

Not only can mice sing, they also may be able to learn vocalizations from hearing other mice. Only humans, songbirds, parrots and hummingbirds have so far been thought capable of vocal learning but a new PLOS One study suggests that “mice have limited versions of the brain and behavior traits for vocal learning that are found in humans for learning speech and in birds for learning song,” as Duke University neurobiologist Erich Jarvis says in Science Daily.

The PLOS One study looked at the ultrasonic sounds that male mice make when they are wooing a female and found that the mice’s vocalizations contain some features similar to those of birds who are able to learn songs. While it has been assumed that mice lack the brain structures for learning to change the sounds they make and that they produce the sounds innately, Jarvis and his colleagues found that a certain region of a mouse’s brain (the motor cortex region) become active when they sing. This region indeed “projects directly to brainstem vocal motor neurons and is necessary for keeping song more stereotyped and on pitch.”

Moreover, the scientists found that male mice actually rely on “auditory feedback” to make their songs and that, in contradiction to earlier studies, mice sing in pitch (and you thought all they could do was squeak).

Here are four other animals besides birds and us humans who sing.

2. Toadfish sing (or, to our ears, hum) for the same reasons male mice do, to attract females. While these sounds are “not as complex as what you hear mammals and birds doing,” fish are not silent denizens of the waters, Andrew H. Bass, a professor of neurobiology and behavior at Cornell University, notes to MSNBC.

3. Male Mexican free-tailed bats also sing for supersonic songs to court females, researchers from Texas A & M University found. Towards other males, the bats‘ songs are not welcoming, but of a “stay away” nature.

4. Not every animal that sings does so for, well, sex. Harris’ antelope squirrel trills to communicate for safety reasons. The squirrels live in desert environments in the southwestern U.S. in burrows at the entrances of which they are known to pause, stamp their forefeet and vocalize before entering. The small rodents have to constantly be alert as coyotes, hawks, snakes and bobcats prey on them.

5. I still remember excitedly pulling the little plastic recording of humpback whale songs from an issue of National Geographic to listen to. The sounds were nothing I had ever heard and the fact that they came from a creature who lived deep in the ocean made them even more intriguing. Other whales who sing are killer whales or orcas, who use ultrasonic vocalizations and have dialects, and beluga whales, who have a whole repertoire of “chirps, squeaks and clips” and are rightly dubbed “sea canaries.”

There’s a lot to hear out there in the natural world. All the more reason to keep up the fight against noise pollution and listen for the sounds we haven’t yet heard.

Related Stories:

Noise Could Be Killing Baby House Sparrows

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Can A New Windmill Save Birds and Bats?

 

 

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Photo by jans canon

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120 comments

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2:20AM PDT on Apr 26, 2013

amazing,great article,thank you for sharing

2:04PM PDT on Mar 21, 2013

Interesting.Thanks for sharing

5:21AM PST on Jan 30, 2013

Thank you for sharing.

2:35AM PST on Jan 5, 2013

I discovered that Guinea Pigs can sometimes sing like song birds. I don't mean there normal sounds I really mean like the sound of a beautiful bird chirping. It happened one morning I thought that there was a bird in my downstairs hall. At about 4am I got up. The noise stopped for a moment as i must have disturbed one of the Guinea Pigs. I don't know which one it was but as I got slowly closer i realised this beautiful sound was coming from one of them and not a bird. It was absolutely amazing and I spoke to a friend who is an expert on these creatures and she tells me it only happens very rarely; so I felt very honoured to hear it.

9:51AM PST on Nov 11, 2012

I've sing my cat sing to birds all the time when he's outside with them. It's pretty cool.

9:39AM PDT on Oct 26, 2012

pretty awesome. although who doesn't know about hump back whales?

7:58AM PDT on Oct 22, 2012

Thank you.

12:53PM PDT on Oct 20, 2012

great article, thanks for sharing :)

3:25PM PDT on Oct 18, 2012

Thanks for sharing. Nature noises and voices are the best.

10:21AM PDT on Oct 18, 2012

If you read the actual research paper, you will see that they learned about how and when the mice sing by your typical vivesection methods: decapitate some of the singing mice without anesthesia (because the anesthesia might affect the brain tissue being studied); use chemical and surgical methods to destroy various parts of the brain, eyes or ears of live mice (at least they did that with anesthesia). Sure, it's a cute story -- "mice sing" -- but "the devil is in the details," as they say. I'd rather they didn't torture the animals and leave the details of why the mice sing as one of nature's mysteries.

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