EarthSky // Earth, Science Wire Release Date: Sep 27, 2013

“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.” – Bret Pasch

Two species of tawny brown singing mice that live deep in the mountain cloud forests of Costa Rica and Panama set their boundaries by emitting high-pitched trills, researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have discovered.

singing-mouse

Alston’s singing mouse. Photo by Bret Pasch.

Although males of both 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 findings show for the first time that communication is being used to create geographic boundaries between species.

In this case, the smaller Alston’s mouse steers clear of its larger cousin, the Chiriqui.

“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,” said 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. “Often they’re high-pitched and above the range of human hearing.”

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