5 Animals You Didn’t Know Could Sing

Editor’s note: This Care2 favorite was originally posted on October 15, 2012. Enjoy!

1. Mice

Not only can mice sing, they also may be able to learn vocalizations from hearing other mice. Only humans, songbirds, parrots and hummingbirds were thought to be capable of vocal learning, but a 2012 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 explains in Science Daily.

The study examined the ultrasonic sounds that male mice make when they are wooing a female, and researchers found that their vocalizations contain some features similar to those of birds who are able to learn songs. While it had 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 humans who sing:

2. Toadfish

Toadfish sing — or, to human 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

Male Mexican free-tailed bats also sing supersonic songs to court females, researchers from Texas A&M University found. When the bats‘ songs are directed at fellow males, these tunes are not intended to be welcoming.

4. Harris’ antelope squirrels

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

5. Whales

I still remember excitedly pulling the little plastic recording of humpback whale songs from an issue of National Geographic. 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. Killer whales or orcas, also sing using ultrasonic vocalizations and have dialectsBeluga whales 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
2 More Reasons Why Crows Are Really, Really Smart (Video)
Can A New Windmill Save Birds and Bats?

Photo Credit: Dawn Beattie/Flickr

282 comments

Marie W
Marie W2 months ago

Thank you for caring and sharing

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Nita L
Nita L3 months ago

I love learning new things. Shared. Thank you.

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Peggy B
Peggy B5 months ago

Interesting.

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Glennis W
Glennis W5 months ago

They are all so adorale Thank you for caring and sharing

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Glennis W
Glennis W5 months ago

Learn something new everyday Thank you for caring and sharing

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Glennis W
Glennis W5 months ago

All so awesome Thank you for caring and sharing

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Glennis W
Glennis W5 months ago

Very interesting Thank you for caring and sharing

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Angela G
Angela G8 months ago

sad about mice since we really don't like them in our houses

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Debra Tate
Debra Tate8 months ago

Awesome. Thanks.

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Paulo R
Paulo R8 months ago

very cool, ty

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