Small Australian Marsupial Literally ‘Shags Itself To Death’

by : Cameron Frew on : 09 Sep 2019 14:07
Small Australian Marsupial Literally 'Shags Itself To Death'Small Australian Marsupial Literally 'Shags Itself To Death'University of Western Australia

Meet the male kaluta – a small, meat-eating Australian marsupial that fucks itself to death. 


The cute creatures reside in Western Australia’s Pilbara region; navigating the baron terrain, scrounging and digging for prey.

Yet, the outback’s harsh conditions are nothing. It’s their insatiable appetite for shagging that sees their demise.

Kaluta University of Western AustraliaKaluta University of Western AustraliaUniversity of Western Australia

As part of her PhD at the University of Western Australia, Dr Genevieve Hayes studied the mouse-sized creature and their bizarre mating habits.


Her research confirmed that male kalutas perish after a single, randy two-week breeding season – the synchronised death is known as a male die-off.

Dr Hayes told ABC News:

Previous research in the laboratory had shown that kalutas probably had this mating system and so we wanted to confirm it in the wild, and that’s what we did.

All of the males in a population will die shortly after their first breeding season but before the females give birth. It’s an interesting mating system, that sort of evolved through sperm competition – it’s really driven by the females, or that’s the current hypothesis.

The creatures’ breeding season takes place in September, and female kalutas often produce a litter of up to eight young which are born in November, two months after mating.

KalutaKalutaUniversity of Western Australia

But why is it so intense? Why are these male kalutas so ravenous for sex? The answer lies, partly, with the females, who ‘really drive’ the impending die-off.

Dr Hayes added: 

The females escalate this sperm competition, which has intensified the competition between the males, which means they have to increase their investment in their reproduction and that eventually leads to the decreased survival amongst them.

The males have to mate a lot and have good quality sperm to out-compete rival males. This intense investment in reproduction, evidenced by their large testes, appears to be fatal for males.


It isn’t fair to blame their fatal attraction on the females alone: Dr Hayes explained that the mating season is exhaustive for both sex’s, leading to loss of life on both sides.

Dr Hayes explained:

It’s quite an intense reproductive event for the females as well as the males, so it takes a lot out of them and that’s quite costly and that can lead to their decreased survival.

So really there probably isn’t many more females in the wild as adults, than there are males anyway.

While ‘small mammals of that size they don’t tend to live more than a year anyway,’ Dr Hayes allayed concerns about their mortality: they have a relatively thriving population.

‘They are actually seemingly doing quite well, which is interesting in itself because a lot of the mammal species in the Pilbara are declining,’ Dr Hayes said.

At least the little fuckers will likely bow out with a big smile on their faces. ‘Get busy living, or get busy dying.’

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Cameron Frew

After graduating from Glasgow Caledonian University with an NCTJ and BCTJ-accredited Multimedia Journalism degree, Cameron ventured into the world of print journalism at The National, while also working as a freelance film journalist on the side, becoming an accredited Rotten Tomatoes critic in the process. He's now left his Scottish homelands and took up residence at UNILAD as a journalist.

Topics: Animals, Australia, Sex and Relationships


ABC News and 1 other
  1. ABC News

    Kaluta research confirms marsupial dies after mating

  2. ABC News

    Kaluta research confirms marsupial dies after mating