Mice Sing to Defend Territory, UT Researcher Finds [Watch]

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Animals using force, cunning, and camouflage to protect and defend their territory is a tale as old as time. But for two species of mice in Costa Rice and Panama, singing away the competition has proven just as useful.

The Alston’s singing mouse (Scotinomys teguina) and the Chiriqui singing mouse (S. xerampelinus) emit high-pitched trills to define geographic lines among species, according to new research from UT postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Integrative Biology Brett Pasch.

Pasch’s paper,Interspecific Dominance Via Vocal Interactions Mediates Altitudinal Zonation in Neotropical Singing Mice,” was published in The American Naturalist in early September.

Steven Phelps, an associate professor of integrative biology at UT, has been studying the singing mice’s connection to human language and co-authored the paper.

The two species inhabit similar areas of forest and eat comparable diets. They produce high-pitched vocalizations that are often above the range of human hearing to attract mates, define boundaries, and avoid conflict between species.

Video courtesy Brett Pasch.


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