The search for Australia’s horniest marsupial, the black-tailed dusky antechinus, has turned up empty, prompting concerns from wildlife experts that numbers have been severely impacted by the bushfires.
The small marsupial hasn’t been spotted in two years, according to an ABC report, and while its energetic sexual antics could be the cause, it’s suspected the bushfires might also be to blame.
The black-tailed dusky antechinus was first discovered in 2014 and is only known to inhabit the Springbrook National Park and surrounding areas, situated on the New South Wales and Queensland border.
While Springbrook was mostly spared the devastating 2019 bushfires that hit the area, the neighbouring Lamington National Park received “considerable damage” and the popular Binna Burra Lodge was destroyed.
A senior lecturer from the Queensland University of Technology (QUT), Dr Andrew Baker, told the ABC that their usual visits to the area would see up to 20 of the marsupials captured but trips none were spotted nor captured in both 2019 and 2020.
“The preliminary survey results in June-August this year show further evidence of a marked decline in not just the antechinuses, but all small mammals,” Dr Baker told the ABC.
“All our data suggests that the black-tailed dusky antechinuses have retracted to the highest and wettest areas in the Scenic Rim and now may have nowhere left to run.”
Survival of the antechinus isn’t helped by its rampant horniness
A catastrophic bushfire is enough to decimate populations of wildlife, especially species as specific to an area as the black-tailed dusky antechinus. Unfortunately, its mating habits only worsen the situation.
The male antechinus has a fairly virile propensity for mating and can last up to 10 hours in a single session. Sadly, it can also mean their demise due to the exhaustion.
“Mating can last anywhere from 20 minutes to 10 hours or more at a stretch — non-stop,” Dr Baker said.
“At the end of the breeding season all of the males basically drop dead from exhaustion [and] a deadly chemical cocktail that’s surging through their system.”
A dangerous mix of increased testosterone and a short supply of cortisol, resulted in a poisonous and ultimately fatal climax for the small male marsupials.
While it could be said the antechinus live for a good time, not a long one, it’s hoped that they aren’t found to be another victim of Australia’s devastating bushfire season.