Newly Found Species' Males Killed by 'Frenzied' Mating

The black-tailed antechinus' males don't make it past the age of one

By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff

Posted Feb 19, 2014 11:15 AM CST

(Newser) – As far as newly discovered species go, this is an unusual one. Australian scientists have identified a new kind of antechinus, a mouse-like marsupial with some odd notoriety. As the Telegraph reports, the males die before their first birthday—due to the "extreme stress" of their "frenzied mating." And the newly found black-tailed antechinus (Antechinus arktos) is thought to be no exception to that rule, study co-author Dr. Andrew Baker tells Australia's ABC News. As for just what's so frenzied about it, a single mating runs from 12 to 14 hours in length, and "they do this over and over again," explains biologist Diana Fisher.

The copulation typically happens over a two-week period when the males are 11 months old; they die before their young are born—and it's not a pretty-sounding death. The rush of stress hormones that fuels the mating sessions causes the body tissues to "disintegrate" and their fur to fall off, says Fisher. As for the black-tailed antechinus, Baker is uncertain what the population size of the species is, but has applied to have it listed as an endangered species. Baker notes, per the paper published in Zootaxa, that it "has only been captured at a few sites and in very low numbers despite extensive trapping effort and it appears likely that its populations are in decline." It's thought to live in a very specific region, the high-altitude wetlands of Springbrook National Park, and it has a distinctive look: As the name implies, its coloration shifts to black at the tail, but the body is "very shaggy, very hairy, with really long guard hairs," says Baker. (Click to read about another unusual animal discovery, this one involving cats.)

Antechinus agilis (not the newly discovered Antechinus arktos).
Antechinus agilis (not the newly discovered Antechinus arktos).   (Wikimedia)
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