Two new marsupial species have recently been discovered who would literally fight to the death only to die for sex.
The males in the antechinus genus, which are mouse-like marsupials, have to furiously fight each other in order to be able to mate with as many females as possible before dying. Males engage in testosterone-fueled sex marathons lasting approximately three weeks.
These marsupials’ sex sprees are reported to last as much as 14 hours consecutively, however with such exhaustion comes consequence.
Researchers explain that antechinus males experience abrupt increases in stress hormones after these sprees and that these, in turn, cause immune system collapses and eventually death.
Andrew Baker, mammologist with the Queensland University and lead author of the study, explains that males leave females alone to raise their offspring. This peculiar sex-related death mechanism, Baker explains, should ensure that future mothers have enough to eat while raising the precious offspring which ensure a next generation.
These mammals’ diets consist of meaty meals such as insects or spiders.
But the fact that with each year, the antechinus’ males’ suicide mission halves the mammal population also highlights the fragility of the genus. Mothers are left to care for the species’ future alone.
Since 1803, scientists had discovered approximately 10 species of similar sex-crazed marsupials. But these recent discoveries show that the genus is more diverse than previously expected.
The two species in question, the Antechinus vandycki and the Antechinus swainsonii mimetes live in southeastern Tasmania respectively New South Wales and Victoria, Australia. And apart from the obvious survival challenges it faces by renouncing its sexually-active male population yearly, the genus also faces additional issues.
Habitat loss (due to logging and deforestation), climate change and feral pests may become so extensive that the Antechinus species is pushed into a threatened status.
“It’s a shame that mere moments after discovery, these little Tasmanian marsupials are threatened with extinction at human hands,” Baker notes.
Baker hopes to receive the aid of the Tasmanian and Australian governments in continuing to study these “biodiversity jewels.
Image Source: Live Science