Two species of antechinus, the black-tailed dusky and the silver-headed are added on Australia’s endangered species list. These mice-like critters are known for the marathon mating sessions, which can last up to 14 hours and that is the reason behind their extinction. An endangered marsupial is found only in certain parts of Queensland and have been placed on the Federal Government’s endangered list, researchers say. The Queensland University of Technology’s Andrew Baker said the males have so much sex during mating season that their bodies produce fatal levels of testosterone.
During mating season, males frantically have sex with females, so much so that it can last up to a three week marathon. This process is exhausting, especially for males, and they typically die four or five days after the breeding season ends due to fatal levels of testosterone, according to Andrew Baker who has discovered five new species of antechinus since 2012. Dr. Baker said by the time the babies were born, there was not one male left alive, which pushes the species into a corner.
High testosterone levels in males is resulting in their death. Dr. Baker said, “It builds up to such a high level in the males that it blocks the switch that turns off the stress hormone. 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.”
Another reason for their death is of course the climate change and the invasion of their habitat by other species. “They seem to like wet, open forest and there are lots of cattle, horses and pigs in lots of our national parks and unfortunately those invasive species trample habitats that the antechinus might use for nesting or foraging,” Dr. Baker said. The species also face pressure from humans. Antechinus likes structure in their environment and as humans chop down trees, the furry marsupials are losing their habitat.
The research group is also working with a group called Canines for Wildlife that train detection dogs to sniff out the rare species in areas where they are not normally found. “In the middle of last year, we had some success and found one of the rare antechinus in a place that it hadn’t been since the late 1980s and the dog found that on the first or second day of deployment,” Dr. Baker said. The research group will broaden its detection dog programme to try to help the species regenerate to a level where it can be removed from the endangered species list.
Baker says there could be as few as a few hundred animals of each of the two species left. To protect them, humans need to get the antechinus to migrate to Southern Australia where it’s colder, says Baker. But researchers aren’t sure how to introduce them to those areas.