Mice, rats and other rodents woo their lovers and fend off competition by singing ultrasonic songs "like a jet-engine" which could help cure human speech and social disorders.
This is because the rodents' sound is produced in a similar way to stuttering in humans thanks to a gene mutation - and studying the mice could shed light how the gene mutation causes the speech disorder in humans.
‘Autism is characterized in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors.’
Lead author Elena Mahrt, a graduate student at Washington State University, explained: "We found that mice make ultrasound in a way never found before in any animal.
"The more we understand how mice make their social sounds, the easier it will be to understand what happens in a mouse brain that has the same genetic mutation as a human with a speech or social disorder."
Senior author associate Professor Dr Coen Elemans at the University of Southern Denmark, added: "Mice don't use vibrating vocal folds in their larynx to make these ultrasonic sounds. Instead they point a small air jet coming from the windpipe against the inner wall of the larynx. This produces an ultrasonic whistle."
The scientists used an ultra-high speed video to see that the mice's vocal folds remained completely still while they sang the ultrasonic songs.
Professor Elemans, head of the Sound Communication and Behaviour group, added: "It seems likely that many rodents around the globe use ultrasound to communicate, but very little is known about this.
"It is even possible that bats use this cool mechanism to echolocate. Even though mice has been studied so intensely they still have some cool tricks up their sleeves."
Meanwhile, co-author Dr Anurag Agarwal, head of the Aero-acoustics laboratories at the University of Cambridge said: "Interestingly this mechanism is known only to produce sound in supersonic flow applications, such as vertical takeoff and landing with jet engines, or high-speed subsonic flows, such as jets for rapid cooling of electrical components and turbines.