Annual suicidal sex frenzy of Australian marsupial could lead to their extinction.
In remote Tasmania, scientists have recently discovered 2 new species of marsupial antechinus which might not be around much longer due to their crazed mating ritual, leading scientists to apply to place them on the threatened species list.
The Tasman Peninsula Dusky Antechinus are literally shagging themselves to death as they succumb to their need to find a mate. Each year the males fight to reproduce with as many females as possible in the short two to three week breeding period.
As they enter the breeding season, the increase in testosterone means that the little critters can go for it up to 14 hours at a time. So obsessed are they with the drive to have sex that they start neglecting the need to eat, drink and sleep. This, combined with a rise in stress hormones which shuts down the male’s immune system, leads to death.
People often joke about wanting to go to the grave while making the beast with two backs, but the reality of these creature’s fate is much more brutal.
“They’ll bleed internally, they have ulcers, their fur falls off in patches, sometimes they’re stumbling around blind and still trying to mate,” says Dr Baker of Queensland University of Technology, who conducted the study.
Every year the male population mates and meets their demise before the females even give birth to the next generation. Their urge to mate is so strong they’ll stop at nothing, and in the end pay the ultimate price. Although they can’t control the compulsion, the suicide mission could actually be considered noble by the female part of the population. One theory is that the males pay the ultimate price for the continuation of their species, by leaving more food for the females to eat whilst they are pregnant and then raising their young.
The males only live about 11 months, making it very difficult for scientists to study and conserve the population, and they are worried that although only newly discovered they may quickly disappear.
The antechinus is also considered vulnerable as it’s habitat is under threat because of deforestation, climate change and feral pests. The population is so small that scientists have requested it be placed on the endangered species list whilst they continue to try to preserve and study the population.
Australia has a genuine need to address the threats this species face, and despite the fact that 9 out of 10 of their mammals are unique, the country suffers from the worst mammal extinction rate in the world,
“Australia is in the midst of unprecedented loss of its biological treasures,” says Dr Baker.
Dr Baker hopes that awareness of their plight, extra funding and the request for the Tasman Peninsula Dusky Antechinus to be placed on threatened species listing means that these guys can continue annual sexathons for a long time yet.
Written by Roncey Horton.