8 Unexpected Animals That Sing

beluga whale

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Everyone knows that birds and insects sing with abandon, and humans clearly enjoy singing. But what about other animals? A study on musicality explored the role of music in human and non-human animals, and suggests "links to language, music, and animal vocalization." It's hard to imagine that the sounds animals emit are all about reproduction and defense. Do some animals have a real joy of singing just as humans do?

Here’s a look at some animals on Earth who vocalize in what sounds suspiciously like song.

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Toadfish Sing to Their Own Tune

toadfish

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The male toadfish’s song, which is described as a grunt or hum, is employed to lure females to his nest. Since toadfish aren't necessarily the most attractive of underwater creatures, they have to be a bit more creative. Recordings reveal that each toadfish makes his own unique sound, often at the same time as his competition.

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Mice Sing at Supersonic Levels

mouse

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Did you know that mice are as smooth as Barry White in seductive singing? Male mice sing "ultrasonic" love songs while flirting with female mice, but some male mice are better at wooing by song than others, which leads to superstars in the mouse world. Mice songs are too high for humans to hear, but sometimes mice can bring their songs down for human ears.

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Humpback Whales Sing in Syntax

humpback whale breaching in Alaska

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These majestic animals are known to sing primarily to attract mates, but recent research suggests that they also sing to communicate locations and to allow male humpback whales to determine if another male is a friend for foe. According to Alaskan government estimates, there were 15,000 whales in the North Pacific prior to commercialized whaling. After several years of decreasing population, the humpback population in the North Pacific is increasing approximately 7% annually.

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Mexican Free-tailed Bats Sing for Love

Mexican free-tailed bats in flight

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Bats are known for their supersonic sounds, but did you know they use them to sing romantic songs? Researchers from Texas A&M University listened to hundreds of hours of bat song and determined that Mexican free-tailed bats sing specific songs to attract females, then adjust their tune to keep them interested. The bats also use their warbling to ward off other males.

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Antelope Squirrels Sing a Warning

White-tailed antelope ground squirrel on a rock

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The antelope squirrel is a common animal found in the southwestern U.S. It likes to live alone among desert scrubs and flowers. An avid burrower, this squirrel makes its home in the dirt to escape predators and heat. While it's known to carry its food in its cheeks, this doesn't stop it from stomping its feet and trilling when it's alarmed.

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Killer Whales Sing for Their Peers

Pod of killer whales

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Humpbacks aren't the only sea mammals that sing. Killer whales, also known as orcas, are the largest members of the dolphin family, and they employ one of the most sophisticated ultrasonic sound systems as a way of communication. Researchers in Alaska's Glacier Bay National Park can distinguish fish-eating killer whales (resident) from mammal-eating killer whales (transient) by their vocalizations (calls, whistles, and clicks). Extremely social animals, killer whales' advanced ability to communicate is likely because they often travel long distances in pods of 30 to 150 orcas.

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Pacific Chorus Frogs Sing for Soundtracks

Pacific tree frog

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Frogs are well known for their vocal capabilities. The Pacific chorus frog, also called the Pacific tree frog, lives along the western American continent from Canada through Mexico. Like other frogs, these animals sing to attract mates, but they also sing about the weather and to mark their territory. A calling group of male Pacific tree frogs is called a chorus. One dominant male leads the chorus, and the subordinate males follow his calls.

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beluga whale

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Beluga whales are extremely vocal and they’re often called “sea canaries” because of the birdlike sounds they make. Belugas use whistles, chirps, squeals, and clicks for echolocation and communication with other whales.

As Jean-Michael Cousteau once said, "it is worth protecting the beluga just for its own sake, for the beauty of its songs."