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Outside the Lines: Human Language Gene Spliced Into Mice

We’ve all been charmed by “Mouse Guard,” David Petersen’s story of noble (but adorable!) 12th century talking mice, and anthropomorphic versions of animals have always played a big role in comics from “We3” to Donald Duck. Now, we might be one step closer to giving animals human speech capabilities, as the “New York Times” explains:

People have a deep desire to communicate with animals, as is evident from the way they converse with their dogs, enjoy myths about talking animals or devote lifetimes to teaching chimpanzees how to speak. A delicate, if tiny, step has now been taken toward the real thing: the creation of a mouse with a human gene for language… Svante Paabo, in whose laboratory the mouse was engineered, promised several years ago that when the project was completed, “We will speak to the mouse.”

Adding the human gene — which scientists believe is what gives us advanced speech capabilities compared to other creatures –lowered the pitch of the mice’s voices, and changed the sounds they used to communicate with other mice. I just love that quote, though: “We will speak to the mouse.”

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