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Dying for sex

Antechinus is a marsupial mouse which squeezes bouts of passion into just a few energetic days.

In early spring the male's only goal is to mate with as many partners as possible. Each session lasts several hours and as soon as it finishes, he leaves to track down a new partner. Each male aims to track down every female in the neighbourhood.

All this activity leaves him with little time to eat, drink or sleep and in time the stress starts to wear him down. Although exhausted, rampant hormones urge him on to another encounter.

Over the two week breeding season he ages a lifetime. Run down and tired, he is literally on his last legs. All the males are soon gone, leaving the females to bring up the babies. His sacrifice makes genetic sense as more offspring will survive if he isn't there to compete for food.

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