A team of Japanese scientists unintentionally bred a mouse that "sings like a bird." So they did what any self-respecting team of Japanese scientists would do, and bred 100 more of them.
The original singing mouse came out of the University of Osaka's "Evolved Mouse Project," which is basically the genetic engineering version of the infinite-monkeys-with-typewriters thing: Scientists breed genetically modified mice that are "prone to miscopying DNA and thus to mutations" and then sort of... see what happens. "We have cross-bred the genetically modified mice for generations to see what would happen," the project's lead researcher, Arikuni Uchimura, says.
And what happened? Mostly boring stuff, like "a mouse with short limbs and a tail like a dachshund" (cool, wake me up when they can write blog posts). But also: A mouse that, in the words of AFP, "tweets like a bird." Tweets! Like a bird! (As opposed to "like Shaq" or "like Kanye," which would admittedly be very impressive, and way more hilarious.)
Obviously, singing like a bird is not as awesome as human-style vocal chords would be. But beggars can't be choosers. And the scientists are hoping our little whistling friends can help us learn about language:
"Mice are better than birds to study because they are mammals and much closer to humans in their brain structures and other biological aspects," Uchimura said.
"We are watching how a mouse that emits new sounds would affect ordinary mice in the same group... in other words if it has social connotations," he said, adding that ordinary mice squeak mainly under stress.
Considering that mutant mice tweet louder when put in different environments or when males are put together with females, Uchimura said their chirps "may be some sort of expressions of their emotions or bodily conditions."
This is the best kind of science, the kind that reminds you of 1980s teen comedy flicks, instead of 1950s horror movies. We may have bred mice that can express emotion through noise! Let's get them a Saturday-morning cartoon!
[AFP; image via Shutterstock]