The ditties are too high-pitched for human hearing, but scientists at Vienna's University of Veterinary Medicine analyzed them and found they convey information about identity and kinship. The findings are published in the journal Physiology & Behavior and in the Journal of Ethology.
“It seems as though house mice might provide a new model organism for the study of song in animals,” said Dustin Penn of the university, one of the co-authors of the work. “Who would have thought that?”
Scientists knew house mice make sounds during courtship, but assumed they were just squeaks, according to the group. In reality, they said, they are complex and show characteristics of song: during slowed-down playbacks, a similarity to bird song becomes striking.