Researchers recently gave the world the gift of knowing that somewhere (in Queensland, Australia) there are two more types of a creature that are so totally committed to having sex forever that they have sex until they die. Male creatures, duh.
The marsupials, called antechinus, have been known to live in Australia for a while, but Queensland University of Technology (QUT) researcher Dr. Andrew Baker recently discovered a new species: the Tasman Peninsula Dusky Antechinus. He also said that the known Mainland Dusky Antechinus deserves to be considered a species all its own. According to a press release, the recent discovery means Baker has found five new species of antechinus over the past three years.
The Tasman Peninsula Dusky Antechinus looks pretty tame for someone who will commit sexual suicide:
Image via QUT.
Although it is very hoppy, which could possibly be helpful?
In the press release, Baker explained what marsupial sexual suicide looks like. It’s intense!
"The breeding period is basically two to three weeks of speed-mating, with testosterone-fuelled males coupling with as many females as possible, for up to 14 hours at a time.”
Copulating for 14 hours straight is, not surprisingly, bad for your health. Baker continued, “ultimately, the testosterone triggers a malfunction in the stress hormone shut-off switch; the resulting rise in stress hormones causes the males' immune systems to collapse and they all drop dead before the females give birth to a single baby.”
Deadbeat dads. Literally.
Figure from Andrew Baker's paper, A taxonomic assessment of the Australian Dusky Antechinus Complex: a new species, the Tasman Peninsula Dusky Antechinus (Antechinus vandycki sp. nov.) and an elevation to species of the Mainland
Dusky Antechinus (Antechinus swainsonii mimetes (Thomas), published in Nature's Memoirs of the Queensland Museum
Because this happens every year, the females are left to raise the antechinus babies until they, too, will impregnate females and off themselves in the process.
Baker argues that some of these antechinus species deserve to be on Queensland’s “threatened” list — but not for the reason you would expect. “These species have already retreated to their misty mountain summits—in the face of ongoing climate warming, they have nowhere left to run."
They are also threatened by feral cats. Climate change and feral cats apparently have the ability to take down animals that self-destruct after they mate. Let that be a warning to us all.
Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.