All together now, with feeling: Mice can sing. Not just the ultrasonic serenade that the rodents use solo to attract a mate. They can sing together in a group.
Scientists at Tulane University in New Orleans have discovered that when two male mice were housed together, they tune their pitch. Yes, like a choir. A teeny choir of mice.
The study is surprising, notes the Telegraph, because singing in pitch is a trait thought to be found only in the Beach Boys or, rather, "humans, bats and a handful of bird and large-mammal species." Yes, we're picturing a Disney movie, too.
Dr. Erich Jarvis, a neurobiologist who oversaw the study, told the Telegraph, "We are claiming 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." He added that ability in mice to sing was not as advanced as in humans. (Alas, no mouse version of Justin Bieber just yet.)
But starting "American Idol" for rodents is not the goal of the study. The research could advance learning in human disorders. Says Jarvis, "If we're not wrong, these findings will be a big boost to scientists studying diseases like autism and anxiety disorders." He added, "The researchers who use mouse models of the vocal communication effects of these diseases will finally know the brain system that controls the mice's vocalizations."