Meet the mad marsupial who has so much sex he dies from stress before being cannibalized by other males so they can keep going.
Antechinuses are carnivorous marsupials who have suicidal sex sessions where all males die after the one to three-week breeding period.
After frenzied sessions lasting up to 14 hours the male marsupials drop dead from too much testosterone.
Although rumored to eat each other, this is the first photograph of a male feasting on another male.
Associate Professor Andrew Baker from Queensland University of Technology said: “During the breeding season, male and females’ mate promiscuously in frenzied bouts lasting as long as 14 hours.
“Certain stress-induced death follows for all males as surging testosterone causes cortisol to flood uncontrolled through the body, reaching pathological levels.
“The males drop dead, which provides an opportunity for cheap energy gain via cannibalism for still-living males and pregnant or lactating female antechinuses.
“While cannibalistic behavior has been reported in some dasyurids, it is very rare to observe in the wild.”
The photos were taken on a trek to Point Lookout in New England National Park, Australia, in August 2023.
Researchers identified both the eaten and eater as mainland dusky antechinuses based on a combination of body size, foreclaw length, small ears and eyes, fur color and shagginess, along with the capture location.
They also believe the animal is likely male, and from the signs of stress-induced decline captured on camera it seems likely he will also become a meal soon.
The full study, published in Australian Mammalogy, details how multiple antechinus species in the area feast on each other as a cheap energy source to fuel their breeding frenzy.
Professor Baker added: “In places such as Point Lookout where two antechinus species are living in the same area, the two slightly separated breeding periods provide the opportunity to cannibalize both their own and the other species.
“For the later-breeding species, both sexes may take the opportunity to cannibalize dead males of the earlier-breeding species, to help stack on weight and condition before their own breeding period commences.
“In the present study, the sex of the animal eating the dead antechinus is uncertain, but it is most likely a male. Although males are believed to eat less than females during breeding, both sexes are known to eat at that time.
“The antechinus seen feeding on its dead comrade appeared vigorous and large-bodied, but it had damage to its right eye and hair loss on its arms and shoulders, which is associated with stress-induced decline in males. He was perhaps destined soon to become somebody else’s meal.”
Produced in association with SWNS Talker
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