Australian Animal Archive

Australian Numbat.
Myrmecobius fasciatus.
(fas'-ee-ah'-tus: "striped feeder-on-ants")

Status: Endangered.

Australian Numbat

The Numbat is the only Australian marsupial that is specialised for feeding on ants and termites. Like the Short Nosed Echidna, it pick up ants and termites with its rapidly moving, long sticky tongue. The tongue of a mature Numbat is approximately 10 - 14 cm long and can consume up to 20,000 insects a day.

Unlike the Echidna, the Numbat does not have strongly developed forelimbs. The Numbat's limbs are fairly delicate and their claws are fairly small.

The Numbat feeds on the ants and termites it finds in the soft rotting timber or in the runways just below the surface of the ground. Termites use these runways to travel between feeding areas and the main nest.

During the winter months, the Numbat is most active around midday, this is also when termites are the most busiest. During the summer months the Numbat prefers to nap in hollow logs or burrows during the hottest hours of the day, and feeds midmorning and midafternoon. Once again this is when termite activity is at it busiest.

Sexual maturity of the Numbat is reached by the age of 11 months and mating occurs between December and February and usually three or four young are reared. Female Numbats dig a tunnel to a nesting chamber and can often be seen collecting grass and small twigs during July to line their nests. By July the Numbat has been carrying their young on their teats for nearly six months.

Once the infant Numbats become furry and begin to get too heavy, they are left in the burrow during the day. During the early part of September the infant Numbats emerge and can be seen sunbaking and playing near the entrance of the burrow, and by early to mid December the infant Numbats are fully independant and disperse to form their own home range.

Slender, with long bushy tail and tapering snout. Rustic in colour with white stripes across the back and rump. Black mask type markings through the eyes.
Wandoo woodlands and open jarrah forests with high concentrations of termites and hollow logs.
Solitary, only being social during the mating season. Active in open areas on sunny days, foraging around fallen logs in search of termites. Scurries into hollow logs or under shrubbery if disturbed.
Late summer where usually 4 furless young are born 2 weeks after mating. Young Numbats emerge from nests in September and are independent by mid December.
Consumes up to 20,000 termites a day.
Can be heard softly clucking while foraging.

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