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The running of the quolls

Little mammals need speed for marathon mate-finding sessions

8:00am, March 9, 2015
A Northern quoll

BEWARE THE BITE  Northern quolls are cute until you have to handle one and cope with its teeth.

Male Northern quolls live fast and die young in a romantic frenzy of long-distance travel. And that’s only part of the reason why animal athletics specialist Robbie Wilson of the University of Queensland in Australia chases quolls with a plastic block.

Boldly polka-dotted marsupials a bit bigger than a squirrel, Northern quolls (Dasyurus hallucatus) are among the very few mammals that practice the lifestyle called semelparity, living for only a single, albeit intense, breeding season. They’re the furry, four-legged equivalent of salmon or petunias. Among Northern quolls, males are the one-season wonders. Females live for two or three.

Male quolls grow up in about 11 months. “Then obviously something switches in their brains, and they go, ‘Oh my gosh, I need to find as many females as possible and mate with them,’ ” Wilson says. “They run extraordinarily long distances to find the females. They pretty much stop

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