Mating As Endgame: Australian Male Phascogales Embrace Death After Non-Stop Sex


Brush-tailed phascogales in Western Australia have been reported for their sexy end. The curiosity on the small marsupials had doubled after the recent spotting of tree-dwelling, insectivorous creatures in big numbers in many of the backyards.

Both carnivorous and insectivorous, these small marsupials belong to the Dasyurid family. They are seldom uniformly distributed in south west thanks to the arboreal or tree-centric nature and the declining numbers driven by the loss of habitat and rise in predators.

In South West Australia, brush-tailed phascogales have been found from Bunbury to Margaret River, while the wheat belt of Brookton to Wagin seemed to be hosting more of the red-tailed kin.

Sexual Frenzy

The excessive sex frenzy by males is displayed when they reach the terminal phase of life. This is more pronounced in the last few weeks as the males ditch food and goes wild and crazy chasing females to mate even going beyond their home areas.

Ultimately, the high libido takes away the life.

"It's an absolute phenomenon — there are no survivors," explained Dr. Tony Friend, principal research scientist at Parks and Wildlife in Australia.

He said the creatures stop eating and all the energy goes into mating. That eventually drains hormones and organ breakdown follows.

Leanne Kelman, a nocturnal housekeeper at Perth Zoo said high testosterone prevails in the systems of phascogales. They have a limited life span with three years for females and no longer than 12 months for males.

Benefits Of Mating Frenzy

However, the unconventional frenzy for breeding among Western Australia's antechinus and red-tailed phascogales has some benefits.

The faster demise of males allows females and youngsters to enjoy more resources with litters facing no hard competition from males on food and shelter.

"Litters include multiple paternity and there's work showing that there's benefits in that — there's better survival of young," Friend said.

The home range varies for females and males with the former restricted to 20 to 70 ha while males have a range of 100 ha with further expansion during May to July breeding season for copulating with maximum females.

Friend said that it is not surprising to see phascogales end up in people's backyards.

"They do tend to move outside of their home range when they're about to die," he adds noting they look disheveled with heavy fur loss.

Reporting Of Sightings

Friend urged people to report sightings of the deaths of male phascogales to the local DPAW office — which may collect specimens of the deceased or their photographs for mapping a database to give scientists a broader picture of their range.

Phascogales are easily identified by their big brush-tail, large eyes, and sharp teeth. Males have a large scent gland that emanates a strong smell, while females are distinguished by an open pouch on their underbelly.

Interspecies Sex

Meanwhile, a case of interspecies mating behavior has been cited by a study with a specific example of a male snow monkey attempting sex with female sika deer at Yakushima Island in Japan.

According to a report, this was the second recorded instance of sexual contacts between distinct species.

Between snow monkeys and sika deer, some bonds exist with the deer helped by monkeys with dropped fruits and monkeys even riding on the back of deer.

In a study published in Primates, researchers described an instance of a male monkey mounting on a female deer. While one deer refused another female did not object and even licked the sperm left by the monkey.

"This individual showed clearly sexual behavior towards several female deer, some of which tried to escape whilst others accepted the mount," the paper said.

According to Marie Pelé, the lead author from the University of Strasbourg in France, it is clear case of sexual behavior.

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