The Dancing Mouse
The dancing mouse, Mus aliqua, is a subsepcies of the common house mouse that seems well on its way to complete speciation. As of yet undistinguishable by physical traits, it is its peculiar mating behavior that has caused the dancing mouse to be granted the status of sub-species, and which makes it very unlikely that it will mix with other, related, mouse species.
Indeed, like a number of other animals, the dancing mouse finds a partner through dance. A more or les elaborate choreography is performed by males and females together, and if both are satisfied, they will mate. Laboratory studies by Prof. Wuan Chop have shown that an essential factor determining the “success” or “failure” of the ritual is synchronization between the two partners. Which might explain the habitat preferences of dancing mice during the mating season.
Although dancing mice usually occupy a large variety of urban habitats, during mating season, they seem to gather in buildings where music is regularly played. From concert halls to night clubs, and even the occasional melophile home, it seems that dancing mice in heat are drawn to a good tune. Prof. Chop believes this is due to the fact that the constant rhythm helps them stay in synch with their partner, and increases the chances of a dance leading to mating.
“We have done several experiences in the lab, and even the presence of a simple metronome will increase the chances of success by a significant margin”, he told us. However, it seems that there is more to it than just rhythm. More complicated melodies seem to have less of an impact on mating success, but correlate strongly with offspring fitness. “The trend we are seeing right now has many different aspects, and it seems that dancing mice are still trying out this new behavior. We are at the state where evolution still has to make up its mind, and the mice are trying out all sorts of combinations that might lead them to better fitness.”
If you do see a dancing mouse, please note the time, place, and location, as well as the tune it was performing to, and post them in the comments of this blog. We will then relay them to Prof. Chop, who is interested in following the evolution-in-the-making of this peculiar species.