Frenzied mating (HLD 220)

28 Oct 2020

As part of our little time away down south, I caught up with my sister for lunch today. Our varied discussions over lunch included fascinating things like mobile phone coverage, ageing parents, cat behaviour, and heart health, and in due course turned to phascogales.

I’m not sure if you’re as full a bottle as my sister about phascogales – I certainly wasn’t – but goodness me they are interesting little creatures.

While she was describing the activity of phascogales living on her property in Dunsborough, I was of course frantically googling. While she was describing the intriguing little creatures that were the size of a large rat but with fluffy tails, and who have been becoming increasingly comfortable interacting (in a remote way) with the people in the area, I did of course get side tracked in my internet research of the animals. All it took to totally distract me and derail the pleasant conversation we were having were two words – frenzied mating.

Female phascogales (also known by their Noongar name Wambengers) can live up to 3 years, but no males live beyond 12 months. The adult male phascogale life revolves around finding as many females to mate with, a fair bit of frenzied mating, and then death.

According to my research tool (the internet), “the last few weeks of their lives they stop all food consumption and put all of their focus into finding females to breed with – essentially mating themselves to death.”

I do wonder if a bit of counselling might have made a bit of difference into the lives of male phascogales. Surely they could have deviated some of this frenetic, focussed and fixated f……. ummmm……mating energy into something that might prolong their lives instead. You know, a little bit of mating, then maybe some golf, basket weaving or some other less frantically fatal activity???

Obviously the males all shagging themselves to death proves beneficial for the females and the young, as they have more resources once the litters are born, with the males no longer competing for food and shelter. Their lives are serene until the male offspring reach maturity.

If you are in the south west of WA between May and July, watch out for little boy marsupials with a weakening body and a one track mind.

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