The Australian government has added two species of a black-tailed, mice-looking marsupial into its list of endangered species.
The furry fellow, called Antechinus, has a singular survival strategy: it literally lives just to have sex. But as fun as that sounds, their “living la vida loca” mantra is precisely what’s putting them on the verge of extinction.
Males only live about a year, and females around three times as much, forcing the species to take sex very, very seriously. No Netflix and chill, no flirting, no witty texting. Males compete aggressively for females and attempt to have as many partners as possible.
Their mating season is quite an intense one, lasting just several weeks each year. These sessions? They last up to 14 hours.
“They literally become a marsupial zombie in their pursuit,” wildlife expert and TV host Jeff Corwin told CNN.
Sadly, turns out all this strenuous activity also kills them. Males produce so much testosterone it keeps the stress hormone, cortisol, from shutting off. This leads to extremely toxic levels which eventually causes the little guy’s immune system to malfunction. They start bleeding internally and just drop dead.
The antechinus has been doing this for millions of years in a strategy that has proven to be largely successful. Until now.
The species purges almost half of its adult population every year, and now it’s facing serious pressure from humans.
“It’s not too much sex. What’s killing the species is habitat loss, climate change; and perhaps the biggest impact are invasive predator species, like dogs, cats and rats,” Corwin said.
“They’re outcompeting this species to extinction, and this species, as it shows us, just wants to have a good time.”
Andrew Baker, head of a research team that has discovered five new species of antechinus since 2012, says there could be just a few hundred animals of the species left.
He believes saving them doesn’t rely on them curving their sexual appetite, but rather in humans pushing the antechinus to migrate to southern Australia, where it’s colder.
“Life is incredibly valuable,” Corwin said. “It’s miraculous in the way that it survives.
“And the antechinus illustrates that, but unfortunately, it’s being pressured to the verge of extinction. We may lose this species before we ever know what it’s great natural value is.”