Tiny marsupials: hours of sex, then death, cannibalism
February 10, 2024 1:31 AM   Subscribe

These fierce, tiny marsupials drop dead after lengthy sex fests – and sometimes become cannibals. "Antechinuses are perhaps best known for exhibiting semelparity, or “suicidal reproduction”. This is death after reproducing in a single breeding period. The phenomenon is known in a range of plants, invertebrates and vertebrates, but it is rare in mammals. Each year, all antechinus males drop dead at the end of a one to three week breeding season, poisoned by their own raging hormones. This is because the stress hormone cortisol rises during the breeding period. At the same time, surging testosterone from the super-sized testes in males causes a failure in the biological mechanism that mops up the cortisol. The flood of unbound cortisol results in systemic organ failure and the inevitable, gruesome death of every male. Mercifully, death occurs only after the males have unloaded their precious cargo of sperm, mating with as many promiscuous females as possible in marathon, energy-sapping sessions lasting up to 14 hours. The pregnant females are then responsible for ensuring the survival of the species."

"August is the breeding period for mainland dusky antechinuses at that location. Intense mating burns calories, and at the end of winter it is cold and there isn’t as much invertebrate food about.

If there are male antechinuses dropping dead from sex-fuelled exhaustion, still-living male and female antechinuses are taking advantage of the cheap energy boost via a hearty feast of a fallen comrade."
posted by chariot pulled by cassowaries (11 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
 
I like the picture of an antechinus attempting to eat an entire researcher; very inspirational!
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:07 AM on February 10 [3 favorites]


This phenomenon describes exactly the annual high school state orchestra competition overnight field trip of the late 1980’s.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 2:50 AM on February 10 [15 favorites]


yeah, but what a way to go!
posted by nofundy at 5:28 AM on February 10 [2 favorites]


Lucky bastards.
posted by chronkite at 5:38 AM on February 10 [1 favorite]


poisoned by their own raging hormones

There was a point in my youth where that phrase would have been appropriate.

I like the picture of an antechinus attempting to eat an entire researcher; very inspirational!

That is an exceptionally cute photo!
posted by Dip Flash at 6:34 AM on February 10 [1 favorite]


These fierce, tiny marsupials drop dead after lengthy sex fests – and sometimes become cannibals.

If they're doing it in that order does that make them zombies?
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 6:44 AM on February 10


Just watched this WTF 101 episode the other night.
posted by snwod at 7:19 AM on February 10


this is how their world ends
with a bang AND a whimper.
posted by chavenet at 7:20 AM on February 10 [4 favorites]


Your Personal MeFite BrandTM is just delightful. Thank you for sharing this story of excess, along with all the other wonders of Australia.
posted by eirias at 12:30 PM on February 10 [3 favorites]


I like the picture of an antechinus attempting to eat an entire researcher; very inspirational!

Dream big, little guy.
posted by Halloween Jack at 1:57 PM on February 10 [1 favorite]


The video won’t play for me but I’ll see what I can find later. Because the one thing I want to know (besides nature WTF) is how to pronounce it.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 12:44 PM on February 11


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