I'm somewhat taken aback by a report that Japanese scientists have developed a mouse that chirps like a bird.
A team of researchers at the University of Osaka are breeding genetically modified mice that are prone to miscopying DNA and are more likely to develop mutations.
The 'tweeting' mouse was created as part of the team's ‘Evolved Mouse Project. They hope it will shed new light on how languages evolve.
‘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 said.
‘We checked the newly born mice one by one... One day we found a mouse that was singing like a bird,’ he told AFP.
He said that the ‘singing mouse’ was born by chance but that the trait will be passed on to future generations.
‘I was surprised because I had been expecting mice that are different in physical shape,’ he said by telephone.
The project has also produced ‘a mouse with short limbs and a tail like a dachshund’.
The laboratory, directed by professor Takeshi Yagi at the Osaka University’s Graduate School of Frontier Biosciences in western Japan, now has more than 100 ‘singing mice’ for further research.
The team hopes they will provide clues on how human language evolved, just as researchers in other countries study songbirds such as finches to help them understand the origins of human language.
There's more at the link. A video of the 'chirping mouse' may be viewed here (embedding is disabled, so I can't link to it more directly).
For all their protestations that they're studying DNA mutations, I can't help but suspect that someone did this just for the hell of it, to see if it could be done. They didn't ask whether the mice would object, or whether it might be 'playing God' to create something that never existed in Nature. This sort of experiment worries me very much from an ethical point of view. If there's a reasonable purpose to something, that's fine . . . but for the life of me, I can't find any reasonable purpose for this!
What say you, readers? Am I being too conservative?