Too much sex puts Australia marsupials on endangered list

Too much sex puts Australia marsupials on endangered list

Too much sex puts Australia marsupials on endangered list

Two marsupial species whose males die after marathon sex sessions have been put on Australia's endangered list, with scientists warning May 15 they are racing against the clock to save them.

The tiny black-tailed dusky antechinus and silver-headed antechinus, discovered in 2013 and found in wetter, higher-altitude regions of Queensland state, are known for suicidal mating habits that include up to 14-hour sex sessions.

Climate change, habitat loss and feral pests are also threatening the mouse-like species, with scientists fearful they could soon die off in a country notorious for having the world's highest mammal extinction rate.

"They are very frantic and try and get from one mate to another and the mating itself can last hours, so it's very tiring," Queensland University of Technology mammalogist Andrew Baker said of the frenzied copulation.

They have so much sex while also trying to hang on to female mates and fighting off rivals that they produce excessive levels of testosterone. This stops a stress hormone from switching off, which then destroys their organs and kills them off.

"They're honestly like the walking dead towards the end," Baker said.

"I've seen them stumbling around during the day -- they are nocturnal mostly -- still looking for mates, bleeding from various parts of their body and their hair has fallen out."    

Females have a lifespan of about two years, with more than half only breeding once and giving birth to between six to 14 babies. The males die before their first birthday.