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Sturgeon's House

The Semelparous Antechinus


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I thought about this recently, for some reason.


The clip is from some made-for-peasants nature documentary, but ignore the narration because the footage is rather good.


Antechinus is a reasonably diverse genus of dasyurid marsupials.  Other dasyurids include quolls, tasmanian devils and the extinct thylacine.  Antechinus is quite smaller than these, thus their common description as "marsupial mice" or "marsupial shrews."


What really makes antechinus unusual among mammals is that all species with one exception are semelparous; that is, they reproduce once and then die.  As the video explains in glorious, lurid detail, there is a two-week breeding season where the males' testosterone and cortisol levels skyrocket.  They are compelled to seek out every female they can find, and forget to do little things like eat or drink water.


Then they all die.


The females live just long enough to wean the young (the litters usually have multiple paternity), and then they all die too.


Hail Dionysus!



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