This Endangered Species Is Killing Itself With Too Much Sex
Photo: Auscape/UIG (Getty)
Just when you think you have it all figured out, you learn there is a punk turtle that breathes through its genitals and a sex-crazed endangered marsupial that needs our help in order to survive.
Upon the things I never thought I would write about, the antechinus argentus is certainly near the top of the list. Not because it lives in Australia. Not because it looks like a rodent. Instead, because it’s now officially listed as an endangered species due to the males literally killing themselves from having too much sex.
While it was already known the species’ males die off after mating season, it was initially assumed it was a mechanism to keep the offspring alive so that there would be less competition for food. On the contrary, a researcher from the Queensland University of Technology named Andrew Baker was recently interviewed and his team now knows the real reason the males are dying off — they are having so much sex during the two-to-three-week mating season that their little bodies produce fatal levels of testosterone.
Yes, toxic masculinity.
“At the same time every year, they have three-week sex marathon sessions,” Dr Baker said.
“It’s really just a big session of all the males and all the females trying to mate with each other as quickly as possible and at the end of that … the males all die.
“They all drop dead.” … “It’s basically competition [for] the biggest males and the strongest sperm …
“It builds up to such a high level in the males that it blocks the switch that turns off the stress hormone,” he said.
“Then they just get these floods of cortisol and it pretty much causes immune system failure that results in internal bleeding and the males just stumble around still trying to find females in that state and eventually just drop dead.”
By the time the babies are born, there isn’t a single male left in the colony. The long-term effect has pushed the species onto the endangered list.
So until researchers figure out a way to get these little critters to start mating sustainably — there’s another sentence I never thought I would write — they’re doing what they can to save them.
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Climate change is also to blame for the near eradication of the animal. They only live at the top of certain mountain peaks, so they have no where else to go.
Researchers are currently using trained dogs to sniff them out in order to find exactly how many there are remaining and if they may be living in other hidden areas. The goal, of course, being to regenerate the species to a level where it’s no longer endangered.
That also means finding a way to get marsupials to mate in a way that isn’t lethal.
Below is a video that shows the ritual in action. The males don’t eat, sleep or drink for weeks — just mate. But just a fair warning, this National Geographic-lic montage is NSFW for the music alone.
Josh Helmuth is a sports reporter in St. Louis who contributes to Mandatory.