pouched rat, marsupial, antechinus, endangered

Adorably Tiny Marsupial Brings New Meaning To “Le Petite Morte”

This post is also available in: Portuguese German Russian

Everyone knows Australia’s full of dangerous animals… but this recently discovered species is dangerous to itself because of its love of life-threatening orgies. Seriously.

Two new species of pouched mice (or Antechinus if you’re nasty) have been discovered. As the name may imply, they’re mouse-like marsupials. They’re cute, furry and the males die in a yearly two week long death-orgy in which they’re so spent after mating that their immune systems fail.

pouched mouse, orgy, mating, endangered
Gary Cranitch, Queensland Museum

As it turns out, this is a sound evolutionary strategy. Since the females accept many different partners, the competing sperm fight it out. Eventually, the sperm from the strongest males fertilize the egg.

The dying process isn’t quick, either. When their immune systems fail, they hemorrhage, their fur falls out, and they stumble around blind, continually trying to hump. Forever humping, humping and humping until death. What a way to go.

pouched mouse, orgy, mating, endangered
Alan Crouch

Worse still, this painful death is often all for naught for the weaker males. Even after succumbing to exhaustion, it’s likely that none of the females they mated with will end up bearing any of their offspring. It might not seem fair, but generally the next litters will be sired by a handful of the strongest males.

pouched mouse, orgy, mating, endangered
Gary Cranitch, Queensland Museum

The news gets worse for the pouched mice. Five of the 15 species are threatened with extinction, and researchers are trying to get more listed as threatened — including one of the species just discovered.

In addition to its already short lifespan, the marsupials are losing the old growth forests they live in to logging. It’s these challenges combined with their relative obscurity that make protection of these animals difficult. Since the animals live in such a small area, a fire or other disaster could wipe clean them out… and that also goes for potential species we’ve not yet discovered.