NewsMontana News

Actions

A Wilder View: Studying how rodents communicate

Posted at 10:59 AM, Feb 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-18 12:59:17-05

MISSOULA — Scientists haven’t found a way to speak to your dog, yet -- but they are making leaps and bounds into understanding the communication of animals.

Just like birds, mice are natural-born singers with a wide range of vocalizations. There is strong evidence that rodents use high-pitched vocalizations that serve as an array of communicative functions. But due to financial and technological limitations, little research has been done.

But now as AI software advances we are unlocking new secrets and allowing researchers to eavesdrop on these conversations. A program called Deepsqueek takes an audio signal and transforms it into an image known as a sonogram -- similar to what you see on an ultrasound.

Most rodents produce complex sequences of squeaks throughout development and in a variety of social and motivational contexts. Your dog may be able to hear the chatter as you go for a walk but these squeaks are in a hertz frequency that humans can’t hear.

The mice in this particular study were found to have 20 unique calls. With 1,300 rodents on Earth understanding their communication will provide immense knowledge on their social lives.

You may not be super excited about studying rodent communication but this can open up a whole new world of understanding communication of wildlife. In order to allow other researchers to pursue this goal, the Deepsqueak software is open to anyone at github.com.