Variations (3): Certain rat, dans une cuisine établi

This study reveals that the ultrasonic vocalizations of the mouse have the characteristics of song. Qualitatively, this is apparent directly from playback of pitch-shifted audio recordings; we have also provided quantitative evidence for the usage of distinct syllable types arranged in nonrandom, repeated temporal sequences. These songs satisfy Broughton’s sensu stricto definition of song, as well as many aspects of his sensu strictissimo…. While courtship songs are common among birds, insects, and frogs, song has only rarely been documented in mammals, and to our knowledge only in humans, whales, and bats. However, some rodent species display a variety of calls and at least one other, the rat Dactylomys dactylilnus, utters long sequences of vocalizations that contain some syllabic diversity.

—Timothy E. Holy and Zhongsheng Guo,
“Ultrasonic Songs of Male Mice,”
PLoS Biology, December 2005

If our present society should disintegrate—and who dare prophesy that it won’t?—this old-fashioned and démodé figure will become clearer: the Bohemian, the outsider, the parasite, the rat—one of those figures which have at present no function either in a warring or a peaceful world. It may not be dignified to be a rat, but many of the ships are sinking, which is not dignified either—the officials did not build them properly. Myself, I would sooner be a swimming rat than a sinking ship—at all events I can look around me for a little longer—and I remember how one of us, a rat with particularly bright eyes called Shelley, squeaked out, “Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world,” before he vanished into the waters of the Mediterranean.

—E. M. Forster, “Art for Art’s Sake” (1949),
reprinted in Two Cheers for Democracy

Leave a Reply