Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The language of adolescent mice

Different inbred strains of laboratory mice interact differently, suggesting a role for genetics in social behavior.

They may also speak a different language.

This paper examined behavioral differences between two common strains of mice during adolescence. In the wild, when young mice leave their mothers and head off on their own, they may do so in groups, and the social interactions between individuals in those groups may have survival advantages. The young mice also need to establish territory and find mates. In the study, adolescent C57BL/6 mice had more social interactions than age-matched BALB/c mice. The differences became less pronounced as the mice matured.

The investigators analyzed the mouse vocalizations, even the ones too high for the human ear to detect. (Remember the singing mice?). Vocalization was correlated with social interaction; the socially interactive C57BL/6 mice were more talkative than their BALB/c peers. The C57BL/6 mice also tended to make shorter, higher pitched vocalizations than BALB/c mice.

The investigators found modulations in pitch within each vocalization that reminded me of my disastrous attempt to learn to speak Chinese with all its inflections; upward, downward, complex.

This study also found that the two strains differed in the ways they modulated their vocalizations. For example, BALB/c mice were more likely to use upward modulation and C57BL/6 mice were more likely to use downward modulation.

I wonder if everything the BALB/c mice had to say sounded like a question.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Upcoming events

Now that the Olympics are over, I thought some of my loyal readers would be interested in competitive events to be held in the near future:

6 September: London Championship Show, Rivermead Leisure Centre

20 September: Annual Cup Show, St Christophers Church Hall

12 October: Peterborough Agricultural Show

25 October: Swindon Mouse Club, Hermitage Village Hall

1 November: Greater Manchester Mouse Club, Methodist Church

22 November: Yorkshire Mouse Club

21 December: Stafford Poultry Show

These events are under sponsorship of the National Mouse Club. Although the phenomenon peaked in the Victorian era, fancy mice are alive and squeaking. As I have posted previously, fancy mice--mice bred for mouse beauty pageants--were instrumental in the introduction of mice into biomedical research. In fact, mice of the common breed C57BL/6 are direct descendants of fancy mouse number 57.

I'd love to attend the December 21 show, if only to see why the National Mouse Club would sponsor a poultry show.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Mouse Mouse

When I'm cruising the web for blog fodder, I'm often confronted with the "other kind" of mouse. You know, the kind that makes your cursor move around. Well, here's how to marry the two concepts. Mind you, it's a little gruesome.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Really big rodents

OK, it's not even September yet, and the scrabbling in the walls has started. Maybe the mice know something we don't know about an early winter.

At least it's not rats. I remember seeing some really big rodents hanging around the dining hall dumpsters in college. I'd hate to have those scrabbling in the walls.

If you want to see some really really big rodents, you need to get away from mice and rats and look at capybaras, which can weigh up to 140 pounds. Imagine the holes this guy could chew in your walls:

For some really really really big rodents, we can look to the fossil record and find Josephoartigasia monesi, which had a 21-inch skull and could have weighed as much as 2,200 pounds:

I don't think these things would scrabble in the walls. It would probably be more like this:

Monday, August 4, 2008

Guns don't kill people...


Woman Shoots Herself While Trying to Kill Mice

POTTER VALLEY, Calif. — A Mendocino County woman who was trying to kill mice in her trailer with a gun ended up shooting herself and another person.

The 43-year-old woman pulled out her .44-caliber Magnum revolver after she saw the mice scurrying across the floor of her trailer on Highway 20 in Potter Valley, sheriff's officials said.

But she accidentally dropped the gun, which went off as it struck the floor. The bullet went through the woman's kneecap, bounced off the keys sitting on the belt loop of a 42-year-old man in the trailer and grazed the man's groin before ending up in his coin pocket.

Authorities did not release the shooting victims' names.

The mice escaped the shooting unharmed.