If the speaking animals in C.S. Lewis’ Narnia make you incredulous, here’s something to ease the suspension of disbelief: researchers at the University of Osaka, during a recent experiment with mutations in genetically modified mice, accidentally produced one that sang like a bird. Armed with more such “tweeting” mice, they are hoping to shed some light on the origins of language.
Charles Darwin once wrote that language evolved from primitive communication patterns among animals, and that mutations, if useful, would be preserved. The social contagion of such mutation also plays a part, as the Osaka scientists may find among the mice. Modern evolution theory, drawing from these ideas and pushed along through new research such as that in Osaka, may indeed one day establish a straight line from animal sounds to human speech. Meanwhile, like Lewis, be prepared to call your friendly neighbourhood mouse Reepicheep.