In late 1925, one J. L. Clark discovered an unusual mouse in a house in Detroit. It could sing. And so he did what anyone might have done: he captured the mouse and put it in a cage. There it produced a lyrical tune as if it were a bird. A musician named Martha Grim visited the mouse, commented on the impurity of its tones and left, musical standards being high in Detroit. Clark gave the mouse to scientists at the University of Michigan. The scientists confirmed that the mouse could sing and then bred it with laboratory house mice. Some offspring produced a faint “chitter,” but none inherited the father’s melodic chops. These observations were all noted in a scientific article in 1932 and mostly forgotten.

Recently, though, Matina Kalcounis-Rueppell, a biologist at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, revisited the mystery of the singing mouse. And after figuring out how to listen to mice on their own terms, she heard something entirely new.