Singing Mice in Mountain Cloud Forests Use High-Pitched Tunes to Protect Their Turf

Posted on September 26, 2013

Alstons singing mouse in the cloud forest

Researchers at the University of Texas at Austin have discovered that two species of tawny brown singing mice living deep in the mountain cloud forests of Costa Rica and Panama used high-pitched trills to create geographic boundaries. The Alston's singing mouse (Scotinomys teguina) and Chiriqui singing mouse (S. xerampelinus) sing to attract mates and repel rivals within their respective species. The researchers found the smaller Alston's mouse (pictured above) steers clear of its larger cousin, the Chiriqui. When an Alston's mouse hears the call of his bigger cousin, he stops singing and runs away to avoid a confrontation

Bret Pasch, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Integrative Biology and lead author on the paper, which was published online in The American Naturalist, says in a statement, "Most people are puzzled by the existence of singing mice, but in reality many rodents produce complex vocalizations, including mice, rats and even pet hamsters. Often they're high-pitched and above the range of human hearing."

Pasch also says, "Songs consist of a set of rapidly repeated notes, called trills. Notes are produced each time an animal opens and closes its tiny mouth, roughly 15 times per second."

Here is a video of an Alston's singing mouse calling in the clouds. Take a look:

The research was published here in The American Naturalist.

Photo: Bret Pasch

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