It might surprise you to know that mice are prolific singers. Most of us have never heard their tunes because they sing in the ultrasonic -- beyond the range of human hearing. But when researchers use special microphones and software to lower the pitch, they can clearly make out mice melodies. That's when the real research begins. It turns out that male mice sing different tunes depending on whether or not a female is nearby. If they catch the scent of a lady mouse, their song is loud and complex -- a mating call, perhaps. Once a female is near, the male's singing gets softer and simpler as he begins his courtship. The researchers also played recordings of male mouse songs for female mice to determine how well these vocal stylings went over with them, and sure enough, most female mice preferred the complex songs to the simple ones. The next step is to uncover the role that genes and brain circuitry play in mice modifying their songs, since that has the potential to help scientists learn more about the communication issues that arise in autism spectrum disorders.
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