Not often does the phrase ‘mating to death’ get literal. But it does unfortunately, for the small mammal species called antechinus, a group of marsupials found scattered across the south-east Pacific mainland.
A recent study has now discovered two more of the species that commit suicidal mating, adding the total number of Dusky Antechinus species to five.
According to the study, which was carried out by researchers at Queensland University of Technology, these marsupials get engaged in mating activity frequently during the breeding period, which gets the mammal bite the dust subsequently.
What accounts to their death is the increase of testosterone, which in-turn lifts the stress hormone production. Excessive rise of these hormones leads to the complete collapse of male immune system, causing the mammal to fall dead eventually.
The normal breeding period for these species is around two or three weeks, during which the mating frequency hikes to the peak. The period can also get the male marsupials to have a mating session prolonged for up to 14 hours.
Of the two newly discovered species of these ‘suicidal-maters’, the Tasmanian Peninsula Dusky Antechinus has also been listed as threatened, with the reasons for their depletion being climatic changes and predatory attacks.
The other species is the Mainland Dusky Antechinus, which is found to be localized around the regions of New South Wales and Victoria.
The research team had also previously discovered three other Dusky Antechinus species; the Black-tailed Dusky Antechinus, Silver-headed Antechinus and the Buff-footed Antechinus. The former two of these also fall under the list of threatened species.