While university students have a reputation of romping around in the bedroom (some Resident Colleges more so than others), when it comes down to it we have nothing on the antechinuses.
The antechinus is a family of marsupials with what can only be described as an astounding sex life, and a brand new species, the black tailed antechinus, has just been discovered in Brisbane. Discovering new species of mammals is quite rare and exciting these days, but this one is particularly interesting.
Male antechinuses are almost all ‘semelparous’, meaning that they have one season of mating during their entire lives. They are born around November and then reach sexual maturity in August.
At which point they stop caring about anything except sex. Nothing else matters.
They don’t sleep. They don’t eat. They spend 24/7 hunting down females to reproduce with. When they find a willing (or unwilling) female, they will then spend up to twelve hours procreating. And once they are down they will immediately start hunting for the next female and the next twelve hour conjugal session.
This goes on for weeks; the male deprives his bodies of nutrients, suppresses his immune system, starts losing his fur and staggering from exhaustion. This ends in a pretty predictable way – with the male dying.
The men literally fuck themselves to death as soon as they hit puberty.
The women don’t do much better; mating with multiple men, in twelve hour sessions non-stop for several weeks is pretty exhausting for them too. They store all the sperm they receive until they ovulate, at which point they give birth to a large litter of babies with several different fathers.
Some females survive this process up to three times, but most also die after round one once they have weaned their first lot of babies.
Scientists have two explanations for why antechinuses do this. Firstly, food. All this crazy sex happens during the thick of winter when food is scarce. By ‘hitting home runs’ until they die the men allow the food supply to last longer for the women and children. Who said chivalry was dead?
The second reason is one of evolutionary biology and competition. The nymphos who spend all day shagging are far more likely to have their genes passed on to the next generation. The prudes who are a bit more conservative will miss out and be quickly bred out of existence.
To be fair, we still haven’t figured out if the new species discovered in Brisbane also like to go out with a bang like their cousins. But considering how boring Brisbane is, I wouldn’t bet against it.
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