There have been some very famous singing mice over the years. Fievel Mousekewitz in An American Tail, and of course Disney’s own Mickey. Up until now they have been pure fiction.
But scientists at the Osaka University announced that they have managed to successfully genetically engineer a mouse that can sing like a bird.
The researchers created the animal in what was known as the ‘Evolved Mouse Project’. In the experiment genetically modified mice, which are prone to miscopying DNA, were bred to enable mutations in a method that sought to replicate the conditions of evolution.
“Mutations are the driving force of evolution. We have cross-bred the genetically modified mice for generations to see what would happen,” lead researcher Arikuni Uchimura told AFP.
“We checked the newly born mice one by one. One day we found a mouse that was singing like a bird.”
Uchimura, the self-styled pop svengali of the mouse world, has now bred more than 100 ‘singing mice’, though he maintains that the purpose of the experiment is to provide clues as to how human language evolved rather than a late attempt at a Christmas Number 1.
The researchers at the Graduate School of Frontier Biosciences in Osaka want to emulate other work which has been done in language development that has led to discoveries of how, for instance, birds can put together sounds into birdsong in the way that humans turn words into sentences.
“Mice are better than birds to study because they are mammals and much closer to humans in their brain structures and other biological aspects,” Uchimura said.”We are watching how a mouse that emits new sounds would affect ordinary mice in the same group… in other words if it has social connotations.”
“I know it’s a long shot and people would say it’s ‘too absurd’… but I’m doing this with hopes of making a Mickey Mouse some day,” he said.
How good they actually are at singing, and whether Everything Everywhere would pay them £20,000 to perform at their next Christmas party is unclear at this time. However, with the grim nature of the global economic climate it’d be cheaper to manufacture pop stars out of lab mice than manufacture them from a trumped up prime-time talent show like The X Factor.