Skip to content
Medical Health Aged Care, Science

Australian ‘mouse’ sacrifices sleep for sex

La Trobe University 2 mins read
antechinus

A small Australian mammal that foregoes sleep to have more sex during mating season is making scientists reconsider how much sleep is required for optimal performance.

La Trobe University experts in sleep science studied the way antechinus – a small shrew-like mammal that is prevalent in eastern Australia – adapts its sleeping behaviour and what impact the lack of sleep has on its behaviour.

Led by Erika Zaid, Graduate Researcher in Animal Plant and Soil Sciences, and Associate Professor John Lesku, Head of the Sleep Ecophysiology Group at La Trobe University, the study found male antechinus slept on average three hours less per night, every night, for three weeks during mating season, seemingly without affecting performance.

One male halved his sleep through the period, during which males compete through physical contest and sperm competition for access to as many females as possible to maximise reproductive success.

“In humans and other animals, restricting the normal amount of sleep leads to worse performance while awake; an effect that compounds night after night,” Ms Zaid said.

“The level of sleep loss in the antechinus would impair humans’ waking performance.”

Ms Zaid said what was unclear was whether the mammals were equally compromised but just accepting the physiological cost, or they are more resilient to the negative effects of sleep deprivation.

“Either they suffer but push on in order to secure paternity and pass their genes on, or they are resilient to the effects of chronic sleep restriction. In any case, they seem remarkably unlike how humans respond to even modest periods of extended wake,” Ms Zaid said.

“This remains an exciting mystery and perhaps the most important unanswered question in sleep research today.

“In the future it would be of value to directly investigate the functional consequences that sleep loss might have on breeding male antechinus, such as reduced immune function, brain plasticity and neurogenesis,” she said.

Ms Zaid said the antechinus did display some impacts after breeding season, including the development of skin lesions and fur loss that resembled physical changes in sleep-deprived rats.

In addition, eight of the 10 mammals studied became sterile, and two died at the same time, signalling a potential unknown trigger for simultaneous “programmed” death.

The study, Semelparous marsupials reduce sleep for sex, has been published in Current Biology.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2023.12.064

 

Erika Zaid and Dr John Lesku are available for interviews.

Contact:

Erika Zaid, M: 0484226290

Associate Professor John Lesku, M: 0424162638

 

Media enquiries

Charisse Ede

M: 0404030698

E: media@latrobe.edu.au

Media

More from this category

  • Medical Health Aged Care, Science
  • 02/03/2024
  • 06:21
MindEar

Talk to your family on Sunday, World Hearing Day, about their hearing issues. Help is available.

Talk to your family on Sunday, World Hearing Day, about their hearing issues. Help is available. Sunday is World Hearing Day. Many people wait too long to act with hearing issues that could be improved. MindEar’s audiologists and tinnitus researchers are available for media interviews Saturday and Sunday morning to encourage people to do something about their hearing issues. Details below. Changing mindsets: Let’s make ear and hearing care a reality for all! World Hearing Day, held on 3 March each year, raises awareness on how to prevent deafness and hearing loss, and promotes ear and hearing care across the…

  • Contains:
  • CharitiesAidWelfare, Medical Health Aged Care
  • 01/03/2024
  • 16:07
Leukaemia Foundation / World's Greatest Shave

Barry Du Bois loses his luscious locks for a cause that’s in his blood!

Barry Du Bois has today shaved off his locks in a nod to his own journey with the blood cancer myeloma, for the Leukaemia…

  • Contains:
  • Medical Health Aged Care
  • 01/03/2024
  • 14:00
Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF)

ANMF Statement: Vale Linda White

The country’s largest union, the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation (ANMF), has been deeply saddened by the tragic death of our dear friend and Comrade, Senator Linda White. As a former Assistant Secretary of the Australian Services Union (ASU) , Linda was long-recognised for her support of working women in this country. She fiercely advocated for the implementation of paid family and domestic leave, better retirement outcomes for women and helped secure strong affirmative action targets in the ALP. Linda fought and won equal pay for 200,000 community and social services workers, securing pay rises of up to 43% for…

Media Outreach made fast, easy, simple.

Feature your press release on Medianet's News Hub every time you distribute with Medianet. Pay per release or save with a subscription.