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Mice woo their mates with high-pitched singing!

June 16, 2011 - Washington

A University of Florida study has shown that like rock stars of the rodent world, the flashiest performers of a Central American mouse species get the most attention from the ladies.

According to the study, the neotropical singing mice woo their mates with high-pitched vocal trills, and a bravura performance attracts more interest from females.

The males' prowess could give female mice clues to a potential mate's physical quality.

"Elaborate courtship displays require fine coordination of the nervous, neuromuscular and cardiac systems. There is increasing evidence that females evaluate male skills during these displays to determine their overall vigor," said doctoral candidate Bret Pasch of the department of biology at the University of Florida.

"What makes a great performance is how rapidly males can repeat notes while maintaining a large range of frequencies of each note," noted Pasch.

"Female preference seems to be based on how well males perform songs," added Pasch.

Pasch and his team demonstrated that male sex hormones, also called androgens, affect how well mice can sing. By neutering the male mice, then giving synthetic hormones to some of them, the researchers showed that mice without hormones weren't able to perform as well as their counterparts.

They also showed that female mice preferred better singers.

"We found that females approached more quickly and spent more time near the speaker playing the faster trill," said Pasch.

"This suggests that females have the capacity to distinguish slight variations in male motor performance and use that information to guide their behaviour," added Pasch.

The study is detailed in the journal Animal Behaviour.


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