Mice court one another with ultrasonic love songs that are inaudible to the human ear. New research shows they make these unique high frequency sounds using a mechanism that has only previously been observed in supersonic jet engines.
University of Cambridge Research
An international group of researchers have found that mice use a mechanism similar to that of a jet engine inside their throats in order to make high frequency whistles – the first time such a mechanism has been observed in any animal.
Mice, rats and many other rodents produce ultrasonic songs that they use for attracting mates and territorial defense. These ‘singing’ mice are often used to study communication disorders in humans, such as stuttering. However, until now it was not understood how mice can make these ultrasonic sounds, which may aid in the development of more effective animal models for studying human speech disorders.
Now, new research co-authored at the University of Cambridge and published in the journal Current Biology has found that when mice ‘sing’, they use a mechanism similar to that seen in the engines of supersonic jets.
“Mice make ultrasound in a way never found before in any animal,” said the study’s lead author Elena Mahrt, from Washington State University.
Journal reference: Elena Mahrt, et al. ‘Mice produce ultrasonic vocalizations by intra-laryngeal planar impinging jets.’ Current Biology (2016) DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2016.08.032.