Listen: Mice ‘argue’ about infidelity in ultrasound

 

IF YOU CAME across California mice in the wild, you wouldn’t hear a thing. Their jabber is ultrasonic—humans hear it only when it’s slowed to five percent its original speed. But that’s when the imperceptible squeaks morph into a vocal range that’d put Mariah Carey to shame.

Mice, you see, regularly vocalize to communicate in many different situations—which researchers did not know until recently.

“It’s an under-appreciated part of biology of one of most diverse groups of mammals,” says Matina Kalcounis-Rueppell, a professor of biology at University of North Carolina, Greensboro who discovered about a decade ago that these mice vocalize.

These sounds range from coos to startling barks. New research published in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution shows that when these monogamous mice are separated from their mate and then reunited, the animals sometimes don’t handle it well—revealing a new side to their social lives and behavior.

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