Updated 21 February 2014

New animal literally sexes itself to death

Western Australian scientists hit the jackpot this week when they discovered three new species of marsupial in the backwoods of Queensland.

Western Australian scientists hit the jackpot this week when they announced the discovery of three new species of marsupial in the backwoods of Queensland.

The animals, were determined to be sub-species of the antechinus, an animal that drew the attention of the scientific community last year when it was found that the males died en masse at the end of every mating season.

The animals mate with such vigour and so frequently that their bodies actually disintegrate from the stress, reports The Guardian. 

Read: How the sexes choose mates

Given that only a couple of new mammals are discovered globally each year, finding three so early in the year suggests that this might be a bumper year for mammologists around the world. 

Known as big-bang mating, male antechinus stop producing sperm when they are just 11 months old before beginning an intense mating period which can last several weeks. These mouse-sized males then move from one mating opportunity to the next until they die. The most common causes of death are extreme stress, infection or internal bleeding. Single sessions in this mass orgy can last as long as 14 hours.

Read: The rampant sex lives of animals

The animals live in a high-altitude, mountainous region inland from Australia’s Gold Coast, reported the Huffington Post. Australia is one of the most sparsely populated countries on earth which goes some way to explaining how these animals have remained undiscovered until now.

Antechinus are the only mammals known to participate in big-bang mating. Other animals include Pacific Salmon and a number of species of spider.

Read more:
Strange animal mating habits
Vying for a mate may shorten life
Obese pick obese mates

Image credit: Animals mating by Shutterstock


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