Over the last 4 years I sometimes despaired this day would never come, but here we are! I’m proud and delighted to share my latest and favourite piece of work, now online on the preprinting platform BioRxiv: Courtship behaviour reveals temporal regularity is a critical social cue in mouse communication.
Read on for an animated summary of what this study is about!
Did you know that male mice sing elaborate, ultrasonic “love” songs to attract females? All this at frequencies so high-pitched that they are inaudible to humans?
Maybe you did, actually. But what no one could tell you is which of the many acoustic features of these vocal sequences female listeners are actually using to make social decisions.
In this study we took advantage of the natural behaviour that female mice show in response to male courtship songs to ask: what acoustic cues are females using from vocal sequences during goal-directed social behaviour?
It turns out females are VERY sensitive to disruptions to the songs’ rhythmic regularity; they dislike irregular, artificially “stuttering” versions of male courtship songs!
Disrupting other acoustic features of the songs, such as syllable sequence, or spectrotemporal structure, did not really matter to the females.
The take-away? Temporal regularity is a key acoustic cue extracted by mammalian listeners from complex vocal sequences during goal-directed social behaviour.
Please check out the paper for all the details!