If there were a rodent opera, Alston’s singing mouse would be the star. This unassuming brown mouse native to Central American cloud forests rears up on its hind legs and belts out long, intricate trills. Each animal’s performance appears to be unique, says Michael Long, a neuroscientist at the New York University School of Medicine in New York City. “I can recognize this one particular song and say, ‘Ah, that’s Ralph.’”
Long and his colleagues have now found that the species (Scotinomys teguina) does something that many lab animals don’t: It takes turns singing. And these rapid-fire duets are giving researchers a new model to study how the brain controls conversation. The mice might even inform our understanding of what goes wrong in disorders that affect communication, such as autism.