Good luck killing a mouse ever again, now that researchers from North Carolina have anthropomorphized them in one of the most adorable ways possible.
Previous research studies and Alvin and the Chipmunks cartoons have shown that male mice burst out complex slow jams far above the range of human hearings when exposed to females of the species, as part of their courtship ritual. Until now, however, it was not believed that mice were capable of modifying these sounds.
The ability to modify the pitch and sequence of one's vocal sounds, called "vocal learning," is rare in the natural world. The list of animals that have mastered it reads like a who's who of the animal kingdom; it includes some birds (like parrots), dolphins, elephants, and humans – in particular the divine Ms. Beyoncé Knowles. Most animals' vocalizations are innate and do not change throughout their lifetime. All of these animals are out of the band immediately.
The twelve pairs of mice observed at Duke modified their pitches (aka "learned their new routines") over a course of eight weeks – a period four weeks shorter than the last season of American Idol.
One of the ways the scientists tested to see if the vocalizations were learned rather than innate was by deafening the mice. When animals like humans or birds are deafened, their vocalizations change dramatically. Animals whose sounds are innate display no change. The mice's vocalizations did change, although the alterations were "less dramatic than those reported in humans and song-learning birds."
The study was published in the journal PLOS One.