10 Animals That Die After Sex

It sounds crazy, but suicidal reproduction – also known as semel parity – is common in nature. There are surprisingly many animals that die immediately after intercourse or not long after the mating season. The males in particular are forced to live quickly and die young, often surviving only about a year.

Scientists aren’t 100% sure why half-match exists, but it could have something to do with adaptation and survival. Males that die immediately after mating do not stay to eat all the food and take up space. In some scenarios, the death of the male makes mating even more successful for the females. Another theory is that it’s just a “whim” of nature with no logical explanation. Whatever the exact reason, there are some fascinating facts about animals dying shortly after sex.

10. Labord’s chameleons die after mating (if they don’t kill each other first)

Labord's chameleons

Source: Frank Vassen | CC BY 2.0 Generic
Labord’s chameleons mate in January. It is “a nasty, often violent affair of males fighting males, females fighting males, and all wishing they were somewhere else. If they don’t kill each other while trying to mate, an overdose of hormones due to the high levels of aggression could be their end. Either way, both the males and females die after successful mating and egg-laying, then drop from the trees with the papery grace of autumn leaves.

This chameleon species spends two-thirds of its existence as an egg buried in the sand. These chameleons have the shortest lifespan of all four-legged (four-legged) animals, often only 4 to 5 months. They often spend more time developing as embryos than after birth.

9. The male broad-footed possum dies after non-stop 14-hour sex sessions

broad-footed possum

Source: patrickkavanagh | CC BY 2.0 Generic
The males of all 12 species of broad-footed possum die after their first successful breeding season, usually from stress. The stress of the breeding season destroys their immune system, leading to liver infections and parasites in the blood and gut. While some females can breed for another season, all males die.

That’s not the only place where the males get the short straw. As babies, the males do not get enough milk from their mothers, who prefer to wean the females. Then they end their year of life trying to mate with as many females as possible in violent, frenzied encounters that can last up to 14 hours each.

Normal matings in these mammals last at least a few hours at a time, and then the males immediately look for more females to mate with. By moving so fast, these animals don’t give themselves time to eat, drink or sleep. Since the breeding season lasts about two weeks, the males are so exhausted from the repeated intercourse that they perish, leaving the females alone to give birth and nurse the young.

8. A female praying mantis bites off her partner’s head

praying mantis

source: pixabay
Some female praying mantises bite off their much smaller mate’s head after or even during conception. The male is seduced by pheromones and a courtship dance beforehand, only to be killed after intercourse. The females don’t usually pull the male’s head off in one quick bite, but bite it like an apple, making the pain last longer. Males seem to use their feelers to calm the female beforehand, but this almost never works.

However, research shows that there is an advantage to this decapitation. Males have a “separate mini-brain” in their tail that activates when their head is gone. This will make them thrust more forcefully and speed up the process, ultimately making the mating more successful.

7. Male Australian redback spiders sacrifice themselves after sex

redback spider

Source: Laurence Grayson | CC BY 2.0 Generic
Unlike some animals that get sick or die of natural causes after mating, male Australian redback spiders sacrifice themselves after sex. Like their American cousin, the black widow, female redbacks devour males post-coitus if they make themselves available. During mating, the males deliberately bring their abdomens near the female’s mouth, even though she will likely spray digestive juices over him and eventually devour him from behind.

Males that choose to sacrifice themselves “give proportionately more offspring than the mates the female spiders choose not to chew.” The lifespan of a male’s back is so short that it will likely die or be eaten by a predator before getting into another female’s web. So, most males don’t survive their first mating.

6. The male brush-tailed possum is the largest mammal that mates itself to death

Brushtailed possum

Source: Alan Couch | CC BY 2.0 Generic
The Australian brush-tailed possum is the largest mammal known to die after sex, for reasons similar to those of other marsupial mammals. At around 11-12 months of age, if the male is lucky enough to be chosen by the dominant female, the male mates in early winter. He expends so much energy mating that his own immune system is compromised. Males even stop eating to focus on finding a mate, causing hormonal changes that can lead to their organs breaking down.

All three species fall prey to stress-induced diseases and die, or are eaten by predators such as owls, foxes and cats. Either way, they die after their first and only breeding season. Females, however, live for another three years. Because the males die before the young are born, there are more resources for the babies and mothers to live on.

5. The male kaluta is the only grassland mammal to die from post-mating stress


Source: pxhere | CC0 1.0 Universal
The Dasykaluta rosamondae or kaluta is one of many marsupial species whose males do not survive after their first mating season. The males die soon after reaching sexual maturity at about 10 months of age. However, the kaluta is the only one of these marsupials living in the grasslands of Australia. The rest of these mammals live in the forest.

As with similar species, the male kaluta’s immune system collapses, dying from stress-related problems after mating. Interestingly, in laboratory situations, males kept alive after mating become reproductively senile, meaning they are too old to mate effectively, even though they are only one year old. However, females are capable of reproducing for at least two mating seasons.

4. Male speckled possums die after sex (and birds may be to blame)

speckled possum

Source: Daniel Gravina Gomes Santiago | CC BY-SA 4.0 International
Speckled possums live on Boullanger Island off the coast of Western Australia and die shortly after mating. Unlike their related species, speckled possums that do not live on the island survive multiple mating seasons. Researchers think the lack of nesting seabirds on Boullanger Island means the soil is less nutrient-rich, resulting in fewer insects. Also, the high energy requirement during the breeding season could lead to the frequent death of the males.

Since free-ranges prey on insects, a poor quality food source can keep them from sustaining the mating season. It’s also a shame, because their mating lasts only a few hours. Mating is preceded by up to 15 days of chases – by both males and females – and multiple attempts at mounting. The males begin mating, and there are many failed attempts during the mating period.

3. Male slender possums die after sex; females die after giving birth

slender possum

Source: Ramon Campos | CC BY-SA 4.0 International
Male Brazilian slender possums die shortly after mating, but females also die shortly after giving birth. This means that no individual Brazilian slender opossum ever survives more than one mating season, and most do not live more than a year and a half. Young Brazilian slender possums are born without a father, and their mothers only live a few months longer, despite the babies being so fragile.

Pre-mortem symptoms include loss of rump fur and parasite infestation, suggesting a weakening of the immune system, similar to that of Australian marsupials that also die after slaughter. Scientists don’t know the exact reasons for the mating in this case, but research has shown that reproduction usually occurs during periods when there is more food, probably to maximize the survival of the offspring.

2. The Trans-Volcanic Bunchgrass Lizard (Sceloporus bicanthalis) only lives long enough to mate once.

Trans-Volcanic Bunchgrass Lizard

Source: Juan Cruzado Cortes | CC BY-SA 4.0 International
The trans-volcanic bunchgrass lizard is native to Mexico. Male lizards live seven months longer than the females, but both will die after successful mating. Females have a lifespan of just eight months, while males nearly double that with a lifespan of 15 months. The end isn’t dramatic – they just die of natural causes after living long enough to mate once.

They are sexually mature within five months of birth, after which they spend the rest of their short lives mating, regardless of the season. Once that happens, the females only have about two months to live, while the males can live for another ten months.

1. Male dark shore spiders (Dolomedes tenebrosus) make a good post-marital meal for the females

dark shore spider

Source: Ryan Hodnett | CC BY-SA 4.0 International
The male dark river spider dies immediately after a sperm transfer. The female does not kill, and the spider does not get sick. Once the male transfers sperm to the female, it dies on the spot. Death involves an irreversible rise in blood pressure, a byproduct of the mating process.

The female then eats the male, often within 20 minutes of intercourse. Fortunately, eating the male can provide reproductive benefits for the female, such as increasing the number and size of the offspring.

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