Overview

Brief Summary

Description

The numbat is a small carnivorous marsupial from Australia, and the only member of the family Myrmecobiidae (2). It is a specialised termite-eater and is easily recognised by its slender, graceful body and short, stiff hair which is reddish-brown with black and white stripes across its back and rump (2). This marsupial has a long, hairy tail, which is often erected to give a bottle-brush appearance (2). Its snout is narrow and pointed, allowing it to get its tongue into narrow crevices, and it has a striking white-bordered dark stripe through each eye (4) (5). Males, females and juveniles are all similar in appearance. Indeed, it is difficult to mistake the numbat for anything else because of its distinctive appearance and because the numbat is the only Australian mammal that is solely active during the day (4).
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© Wildscreen

Source: ARKive

Trusted

Article rating from 1 person

Average rating: 4.0 of 5

Biology

Unlike most marsupials the numbat is active during the day, reflecting the behaviour patterns of termites, spending most of its active hours searching for food (2) (5). It is the only marsupial that strictly feeds on social insects, and consumes 20,000 per day, the equivalent to ten percent of its body weight (4). The numbat walks with its nose to the ground, sniffing and turning over small pieces of wood in search of shallow underground termite galleries (5). On finding a gallery it squats on its hind legs and digs rapidly with its clawed forefeet, licking up the termites with its long, thin tongue (4) (5). Some ants are also eaten, but research shows that most are predatory ants that rush in when numbats uncover a termite nest, indicating that they are lapped up accidentally with the termites, rendering its other name, the banded anteater, some-what misleading (6). At night, numbats shelter in hollow logs that are too narrow for its predators, such as foxes, to enter. Should the numbat feel threatened, it turns its rump, which is extremely thick-skinned, to plug the hole and protect itself (4). It is a solitary animal for most of the year, occupying a home range of up to 370 acres, though in the summer before the breeding season a male will roam long distances outside its home range in search of a female (4) (5). During the cooler months, a male and a female may share the same home range, but they are rarely seen together (5). The female gives birth to four young between January and May, which attach themselves to her four nipples, as she does not have a pouch like other marsupials (5). The female does, however, have longer underbelly hairs to keep the young warm and protected (2). In July or August, the cooler months in Australia, the female deposits her young in a burrow measuring one to two metres long, leaving them to forage during the day and returning to suckle them at night. By October the young are half grown and by the summer months of December they disperse (5).
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© Wildscreen

Source: ARKive

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Distribution

Since the beginning of European settlement in Australia, the abundance of numbats has declined dramatically. Previously occupying most of southern Australia, including New South Wales and Victoria, and parts of Western Australia and the Northern Territory, numbat are now extinct in approximately 99% of its former range. Only two natural populations remain, the Dryandra and Perup sites, both located in Western Australia. Reintroduced populations can be found in Dragon Rocks Nature Reserve, Batalling State Forest, Tutanning Nature Reserve, and Boyagin Nature Reserve (all located in Western Australia), Yookamurra Sanctuary (located in South Australia), and Scotia Sanctuary (located in New South Wales).

Biogeographic Regions: australian (Introduced , Native )

Other Geographic Terms: island endemic

  • Zoological Society of London. 2012. "Numbat (Myrmecobius fasciatus)" (On-line). EDGE: Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered. Accessed March 31, 2012 at http://www.edgeofexistence.org/mammals/species_info.php?id=165.
  • Project Numbat Inc. 2012. "Numbats" (On-line). Project Numbat. Accessed March 31, 2012 at http://numbat.org.au/numbats/.
  • Friend, J., D. Neil. 2003. Conservation of the Numbat (Myrmecobius fasciatus). Pp. 452-463 in M Jones, M Archer, C Dickman, eds. Predators with Pouches: The Biology of Carnivorous Marsupials. Collingwood VIC, Australia: CSIRO Publishing.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Range Description

This species is endemic to Australia, where it occurs naturally Dryandra and Perup in south-western Western Australia. This species was formerly widespread across southern semi-arid and arid Australia. There are reintroduced populations in Dragon Rocks Nature Reserve, Batalling State Forest, Tutanning Nature Reserve, and Boyagin Nature Reserve (all Western Australia). There are two fenced, reintroduced populations; Yookamurra Sanctuary (South Australia) and Scotia Sanctuary (New South Wales).
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources

Source: IUCN

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Historic Range:
Australia

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Range

The numbat was once widespread in Australia, and at the time of European settlement it was found in southern semi-arid and arid Australia and across much of the southern half of Western Australia (2). However, this species only survived in two remnant populations at Perup and Dryandra, in the south west of Western Australia. There are now also six self-sustaining re-introduced populations: four in Western Australia and one each in South Australia and New South Wales (2).
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© Wildscreen

Source: ARKive

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Physical Description

Morphology

Numbats are small, slender carnivorous marsupials, weighing between 300 g and 752 g, and measuring 175 mm to 290 mm body length and 120 mm to 210 mm tail-length. The head is relatively small and flat with an elongated, pointed snout and a slim, sticky tongue that has the capability to extend to at least 100 mm. The coat is composed of short, stiff, reddish-brown or grey-brown hair, which is marked by four to eleven white bands running across the back and rump, giving each individual a unique, distinct appearance. A single dark stripe, accentuated by a white band below it, crosses each side of the face and travels through each eye. The hair on the tail tends to be slightly longer than the hair on the body. Tails do not differ greatly among numbats; they tend to be brown in color interspersed with white with an orange-brown color on the underside. The hair on the ventral side, or abdomens, of numbats are white. The eyes and ears are located high on the head, and the erect ears are twice as long as broad. The forefeet, which bear five toes, and the hind feet, which bear four toes, all have strong, sharp claws. Unlike other mammals, numbats do not have proper teeth but instead have blunt “pegs” because they do not chew their food. In female numbats, there is no trace of a proper pouch; instead, skin folds, which are covered in short crimped, golden hair, enclose the young when suckling from one of the four nipples found on the abdomen. In addition to the skin folds, females and males differ from one another in body mass, with males tending to weigh slightly more than females. Females weigh between 320 g and 678 g, averaging 478 g. While males weigh between 300 g and 715 g, averaging 597 g. When young, newborn numbats range in length from less than 20 mm to 75 mm, and the snout is extremely shortened. When the young reach the length of approximately 30 mm, a light downy coat arises, and this coat eventually bears the characteristic white stripes when the numbat is about 55 mm in length.

Range mass: 300 to 752 g.

Range length: 175 to 290 mm.

Average length: 270 mm.

Average basal metabolic rate: 0.389 cm3.O2/g/hr.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: male larger

Average basal metabolic rate: 0.907 W.

  • Cooper, C., P. Withers. 2002. Metabolic physiology of the numbat (Myrmecobius fasciatus). Journal of Comparative Physiology. B, 172/8: 669-675. Accessed March 31, 2012 at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12444465.
  • Friend, J. 1989. Myrmecobiidae. Pp. chapter 22, 1-18 in D Walton, B Richardson, eds. Fauna of Australia Volume 1B. Canberra ACT, Australia: AGPS Canberra.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Ecology

Habitat

When numbats were abundant, they occupied semi-arid and arid woodlands (composed of flowering trees and shrubs of the genera Eucalyptus and Acacia) and grasslands (composed of grasses of the genera Triodia and Plectrachne). Now, they can only be found in eucalypt woodlands, which are located at an elevation of approximately 317m, in the wettest periphery of the former range because of the abundance of old and fallen trees. The logs of eucalypt woodlands play a great role in aiding in the survival of numbats. At night, the numbats seek shelter inside hollow logs, and during the day, numbats can avoid predators, especially birds and foxes, by staying hidden within the darkness of the logs. During mating seasons, logs provide numbats an area for their nesting sites. Most importantly, the heartwood of the majority of trees in eucalypt woodlands are eaten by termites, which are the base of the numbat's diet. Numbats depend on sufficient presence and availability of termites so much so that the presence of termites restricts the habitat of numbats to areas only where termites can be found. If areas are too wet or too cold, termites will not flourish, and, thus, neither will numbats.

Average elevation: 317 m.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: forest

  • Fletcher, T., P. Spencer, T. Friend, S. Jackson. 2003. Numbats. Pp. chapter 4, 99-119 in S Jackson, ed. Australian Mammals: Biology and Captive Management. Collingwood VIC, Australia: CSIRO Publishing.
  • Friend, T., A. Burbidge. 2011. "Myrmecobius fasciatus" (On-line). IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Accessed March 04, 2012 at http://www.iucnredlist.org/apps/redlist/details/14222/0.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
Numbats formerly occurred in semi-arid and arid woodlands (Eucalyptus and Acacia) and grasslands (Triodia and Plectrachne). Now they are restricted to eucalypt woodlands in the wettest periphery of the former range. This species is generally solitary and is active during the day foraging mostly on termites from dead trees, logs, and in the leaf litter. The presence of hollow logs was probably less important to the species before the introduction of foxes; they are now seen as being of prime importance (Friend 2008). At night shelter is sought from the burrows of other animals or a bed of grass inside a hollow log.

Systems
  • Terrestrial
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources

Source: IUCN

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Inhabits eucalyptus forest and woodland, in areas particularly dominated by wandoo (Eucalyptus wandoo) or jarrah (Eucalyptus marginata) trees, though it was previously also found in areas of mulga (Acacia aneura) woodland (2). Semi-arid areas with these vegetation types provide the numbat with fallen hollow logs and branches for shelter, as well as food and support for termites that the numbat feeds on (2).
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© Wildscreen

Source: ARKive

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Trophic Strategy

Numbats diets consist primarily of termites, although they ingest some predator ants by accident while eating termites. Eating approximately 15,000 to 20,000 termites per day, numbats have evolved several morphological features in order to be successful in obtaining and feeding on termites. The elongated snout is used for getting into logs and small holes in the ground to search for termites. Their nose is extremely sensitive, sensing the presence of termites by smell and small vibrations in the ground. A long, thin tongue, which is coated with saliva, allows numbats to gain access to the termite passageways, also known as galleries, and quickly withdraw several termites that have adhered to the sticky saliva. The saliva is produced from a pair of quite enlarged and complex salivary glands. The forefeet and hind feet bear razor-sharp claws, which allow numbats to dig rapidly into termite galleries in the soil. Their mouths are filled with 47 to 50 blunt "pegs," instead of proper teeth as in other mammals, because numbats do not chew the termites.

Numbats daily diet of termites, which corresponds to approximately 10% of the body weight of an adult numbat, includes the genera Heterotermes, Coptotermes, Amitermies, Microcerotermes, Termes, Paracapritermes, Nasutitermes, Tumulitermes, and Occasitermes, usually in proportion to their relative abundance. Due to the fact that Coptotermes and Amitermies are the most common termite species in numbat habitat, these two genera are the most commonly eaten. However, numbats do have preferences; some lactating females prefer Coptotermes species at certain periods of the year, and some numbats have refused to eat Nasutitermes species during the winter.

In "Fauna of Australia," by J.A. Friend, author J.H. Calaby (1960) describes feeding in numbats. Numbats use scent to locate termite galleries and begin to dig out the insects with both feet rapidly. Numbats use their tongue to pick up exposed termites and may leave to find another gallery or dig in the same gallery once termites are no longer exposed. Numbats also turn over leaves and sticks with their teeth to expose and prey upon termites.

Animal Foods: insects

Primary Diet: carnivore (Insectivore )

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Associations

Numbats play an important role in controlling termite populations. Numbats feed on approximately 20,000 termites daily. The termite species consumed are based on their abundance. Although uncommon, ants can also be found in the termite diet, but these ants are incidentally consumed while numbats are feeding on termites. In addition, numbats invariably ingests debris (at least 0.33 g of dirt for every gram of organic matter) that adheres to the tongue along with the termites.

Numbats are hosts for many species of endo- and ectoparasites. Three nematodes (Beveridgeiella calabyi, Beveridgeiella inglisi, Mulusentis myrmecobius), have been found in the alimentary tract of numbats. A new species of acanthocephalan (Mulusentis myrmecobius) uses arthropods as intermediate hosts; thus, numbats are infected by this acanthocephalan by feeding on infected termites. Several ectoparasites have also been found on numbats, including mites (Mesolaelaps australiensis), ticks (Ixodes vestitus, Ixodes myrmecobii, Amblyomma triguttatum), and fleas (Echidnophaga myrmecobii, Echidnophaga perilis).

Ecosystem Impact: creates habitat; keystone species

Commensal/Parasitic Species:

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Numbats fave several predators on a daily basis. The three primary predators of the numbat are red foxes, raptors, and feral cats. Unfortunately, because of their small size, they are easy prey for these predators. Even the smaller species of these predators, such as little eagles, which ranges in size from 45 cm to 55 cm, can effortlessly overpower numbats. At times, numbats are also taken by snakes, such as carpet pythons, and large lizards, such as sand goannas. Due to the fact that the number of these predators are overly elevated in fragmented woodlands, the populations of numbats have decreased rapidly since they are constantly being preyed upon.

Numbats have several adaptations for predator avoidance. It primarily avoids detection while roaming on the forest floor by the composition of its hair color, which camouflages with the surrounding brush. The erect ears located high on the head and the eyes located on the opposite sides of their head allow numbats to hear or see predators coming towards them. If numbats sense danger or encounters a predator, they will freeze and keep very still until the danger has passed. If pursued, numbats will run to shelter and grasp the sides of the enclosure. At times, numbats may also try to ward off predators by producing low-throaty growls along with a repetitive "tut tut tut."

Known Predators:

Anti-predator Adaptations: cryptic

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Numbats produce a variety of vocalizations. During breeding season, if a female and male are both interested in one another, they vocalize by producing a series of soft clicks. However, if a male approaches a female and she rejects his advances, she will produce growling vocalizations that may lead to loud altercations. A similar vocalization that resembles these growling sounds can also be heard from numbats that are being handled or disturbed. Differing slightly, these distressed low-throaty growls are produced with the mouth closed, along with a repetitive "tut tut tut." Another type of vocalization is the hissing growls produced by numbats that are protecting their territory against foreign numbats. Besides the breeding season and stressful situations, the only other time one tends to hear vocalizations produced by numbats are when a mother is caring for her young. Once the young have emerged from the log or burrow, the mother communicates with them by soft chirping sounds.

The numbat relies heavily on sight, hearing, and smell when perceiving their environment. Constantly on alert when roaming and feeding, the numbat detects threats from predators primarily by sound (hearing the predator's approach) and vision (seeing their approach). When feeding, the numbat only uses smell. The numbat's incredibly keen sense of smell allows them to locate termite galleries, brimming with prey, despite the fact that some galleries are as far as 50 mm below the surface of the soil. Smell is also used during breeding season. When a male has found a female, he smears an oily, foul-smelling substance from his sternal gland around the female numbat's territory, which wards off other males.

Communication Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

Other Communication Modes: scent marks

Perception Channels: visual ; tactile ; acoustic ; chemical

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Life Expectancy

The average lifespan for male or female numbats in the wild is four to five years, as compared to seven years for a female and eleven years for a male in captivity. The lifespan for those in the wild is quite short because numbats are constantly preyed on by foxes, raptors, and cats. Therefore, their longevity is limited by the injuries incurred from their predators and their constant expenditure of energy in trying to survive. In addition, when captive-bred numbats are released in the wild, they lack the basic knowledge and skills to avoid their predators. This is demonstrated by the research at Perth Zoo in Western Australia. In the year 2000, Perth Zoo implemented an experimental training program where young captive-bred numbats were exposed to a raptor while loud noises and bird alarm calls were sounded. The results suggest that these trained numbats had a higher survival rate over the first 5 months after release than the untrained numbats. Due to training programs, as well as fox-and-cat-control programs, the mortality rate of numbats in the wild (recorded in the year 2011) has dropped to a fairly low rate.

Average lifespan

Status: wild:
5 years.

Average lifespan

Status: captivity:
11 years.

Typical lifespan

Status: wild:
4 to 5 years.

Average lifespan

Status: captivity:
11 years.

Average lifespan

Sex: female

Status: captivity:
6.0 years.

Average lifespan

Sex: male

Status: captivity:
5.0 years.

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 11 years (captivity) Observations: One male was at least 11 years old when it died at Perth Zoo (Richard Weigl 2005).
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)

© Joao Pedro de Magalhaes

Source: AnAge

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Reproduction

Leading up to the mating season, which occurs from December to January, male numbats secrete an oily substance from their sternal gland, which is located at the top of the chest. Turning the fur red, this pungent oil is rubbed over surfaces of logs and rocks by the male. In addition to advertising to females that the male is looking for a mate, the smell also warns other males to stay away from his territory. When a male desires a certain female, he will follow her and pay particularly close attention to her cloacal region by sniffing it. Both the male and female will vocalize to one another, producing sounds that are composed of a series of soft clicks. Numbats vocalize only during two different periods in their life (during the breeding season and during infancy when communicating with the mother); however, breeding vocalizations are significantly different than baby numbat vocalizations. If a female rejects male advances, loud altercations will take place. The female will produce low, throaty, aggressive growls with her mouth closed. At times, the male will attempt to mount the aggravated female, which will lead to them tumbling together on the ground with the female growling. The male may still try to pursue the female by chasing her, or he may stop his advances all together.  After copulation, which ranges in time from less than one minute to an hour, the male may leave immediately in order to mate with another female, or he may stay in the den (hollow logs, burrows, and nests composed of bark, grass, and leaves) until the mating season ends. However, after the reproductive season finishes, the male will leave the female. The female then cares and tends to the young by herself. Numbats are polygynous, meaning males mate with more than one female; thus, during the next breeding season, the male will mate with a different female.

Mating System: polygynous

The reproductive cycles of numbats are seasonal, with the female producing one litter per year. The female is polyestrous, which means she has several estrous cycles during a single breeding season. Thus, females that have failed to conceive or have lost their young may conceive again with a subsequent mate. Males too have a distinct fertility cycle; the sperm appear in early December, decline in February, and are absent by March. Females first breed when they are 12 months of age, and males are sexually mature at 24 months. After a gestation period of 14 days, female numbats give birth to four young in January or February. The underdeveloped young, which are about 20 mm long, travel to the mother's nipples. Unlike most marsupials, female numbats lack a pouch to house the young. Instead, the four nipples are covered by crimped, golden hair that differs greatly from the long white hair on her chest. There, the young entwine their forelimbs in the specialized crimped hair of the mammary area and attach to her nipples for up to six months until the young have grown so large that the mother cannot walk properly. By late July or early August, the young are detached from the nipples and are placed in the nest. Although detached from the nipples, they continue to suckle until they are approximately nine months of age. In late September, the young begin to forage for themselves, becoming independent and moving to a territory of their own by November.

Breeding interval: During a single breeding season females may breed several times or just once if initially successful.

Breeding season: Numbat breeding seasons take place from December to January.

Average number of offspring: 4.

Average gestation period: 14 days.

Average weaning age: 9 months.

Average time to independence: 11 months.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 12 months.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 24 months.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization ; viviparous ; post-partum estrous

Average number of offspring: 4.

Males play no part in post-breeding parental investment, leaving females to care for the young alone. After females give birth, the underdeveloped young immediately travel to the mother's nipples and attach. The litter size usually consists of four numbats so that all nipples are occupied. Due to the fact that there is no pouch, the young survive by holding onto the mother only by their oral attachment to the nipples and by entwining their forelimbs into the crimped hair of the mammary area, also known as skin folds. The young stay attached to the mother for approximately six to seven months. By this time, the young are so big that they cause the mother to walk abnormally; thus, she removes them from her body and places them in a log or burrow. Provisioning and protecting her young, the mother consistently returns to the log or burrow to suckle them until they are eight or nine months of age. Over the next two months, the young begin to investigate the area outside their nest, encountering their first predators and eating termites. The mother weans them from her milk between ten and eleven months of age. By the twelfth month, the juveniles leave their mother to find their own territory, forage for themselves, and breed.

Parental Investment: altricial ; female parental care ; pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-independence (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female)

  • Project Numbat Inc. 2012. "Numbats" (On-line). Project Numbat. Accessed March 31, 2012 at http://numbat.org.au/numbats/.
  • Cooper, C. 2011. Myrmecobius fasciatus (Dasyuromorphia: Myrmecobiidae): Iss. 881. Mammalian Species (Online), 43/879-883: 129-140. Accessed March 04, 2012 at http://www.bioone.org/doi/abs/10.1644/881.1.
  • Fletcher, T., P. Spencer, T. Friend, S. Jackson. 2003. Numbats. Pp. chapter 4, 99-119 in S Jackson, ed. Australian Mammals: Biology and Captive Management. Collingwood VIC, Australia: CSIRO Publishing.
  • Friend, J. 1989. Myrmecobiidae. Pp. chapter 22, 1-18 in D Walton, B Richardson, eds. Fauna of Australia Volume 1B. Canberra ACT, Australia: AGPS Canberra.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Evolution and Systematics

Functional Adaptations

Functional adaptation

Pelt is adapted for thermoregulation: numbat
 

Sparse and shallow pelt of the numbat favours passive heat loss in the hot summer and radiative heat gain in the cooler winter

     
  "Numbats are unusual marsupials in being exclusively diurnal and termitivorous. They have a sparse (1921·hairs/cm2) and shallow (1.19·mm) pelt compared with other Marsupials. Coat reflectivity is low (19%) for numbats compared with nocturnal marsupials, but absorptivity is similar to that of diurnal North American ground squirrels (72%), indicating that the coat of the numbat may be adapted for acquisition of solar heat. Numbat coat thermal resistance decreases significantly with wind speed from 45.9·s/m (at 0.5·m/s) to 29.8·s/m (at 3·m/s). Erecting the fur significantly increases pelt depth (6.5·mm) and coat resistance (79.2–64.2·s/m) at wind speeds between 0.5·m/s and 3·m/s. Numbat coat resistance is much lower than that of other marsupials, and wind speed has a greater influence on coat resistance for numbats than for other mammals, reflecting the low pelt density and thickness. Solar heat gain by numbats through the pelt to the level of the skin (60–63%) is similar to the highest value measured for any mammal. However the numbat’s high solar heat gain is not associated with the same degree of reduction in coat resistance as seen for other mammals, suggesting that its pelt has structural and spectral characteristics that enhance both solar heat acquisition and endogenous heat conservation. Maximum solar heat gain is estimated to be 0.5–3.6 times resting metabolic heat production for the numbat at ambient temperatures of 15–32.5°C, so radiative heat gain is probably an important aspect of thermoregulation for wild numbats." (Cooper et al. 2003: 2771)
  Learn more about this functional adaptation.
  • Cooper CE; Walsberg GE; Withers PC. 2003. Biophysical properties of the pelt of a diurnal marsupial, the numbat (Myrmecobius fasciatus), and its role in thermoregulation. Journal of Experimental Biology. 206(16): 2771-2777.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© The Biomimicry Institute

Source: AskNature

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Barcode data: Myrmecobius fasciatus

The following is a representative barcode sequence, the centroid of all available sequences for this species.


There are 2 barcode sequences available from BOLD and GenBank.

Below is a sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.

See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen and other sequences.

ACTCGTTGATTGTTCTCTACTAATCACAAAGATATTGGCACTTTATATCTTCTATTTGGTGCTTGAGCAGGAATAGTAGGTACAGCTCTA---AGCCTACTTATTCGCGCAGAGCTAGGTCAACCTGGCACCCTAATCGGCGAT---GATCAAATTTACAACGTTATCGTAACAGCTCATGCATTTGTAATAATTTTCTTCATAGTAATGCCTATTATAATCGGGGGCTTTGGTAACTGACTAGTTCCACTAATA---ATTGGGGCACCAGATATAGCATTCCCCCGAATAAACAATATAAGCTTCTGACTCTTACCACCGTCATTCCTTCTACTACTGGCGTCTTCAACAGTAGAAGCAGGTGCCGGAACAGGTTGAACTGTATACCCACCTCTAGCTGGTAACCTGGCACATGCAGGAGCTTCAGTAGACTTA---GCTATTTTTTCACTACATCTAGCAGGAGTCTCATCCATCCTAGGGGCTATCAACTTTATTACAACAATTATTAACATGAAACCACCAGCAGTATCCCAATATCAGACACCACTGTTTGTATGATCAGTTATAATTACAGCAGTGTTACTTCTTCTATCACTACCAGTTCTAGCAGCT---GGCATTACCATACTACTAACAGACCGTAACTTGAACACAACATTCTTTGACCCAGCTGGAGGAGGAGATCCAATTCTGTATCAACATCTATTCTGATTTTTCGGACACCCGGAAGTATATATTCTAATTCTCCCAGGCTTCGGCATTGTTTCTCACATTGTCACTTATTACTCAGGCAAAAAA---GAACCTTTCGGCTATATAGGAATAGTCTGAGCTATAATATCAATTGGATTCCTAGGATTTATCGTGTGAGCTCACCATATGTTTACTGTAGGCCTAGATGTAGACACACGAGCATATTTCACATCAGCCACGATAATCATTGCTATTCCCACTGGAGTAAAAGTGTTTAGCTGGTTA---GCAACACTACACGGAGGT---AATATTAAATGAGCCCCAGCCATACTATGAGCCCTTGGGTTTATTTTCCTATTCACAATTGGAGGTCTTACAGGAATCGTACTAGCTAACTCATCCCTTGACATTGTACTCCACGATACATACTATGTAGTAGCCCACTTCCACTACGTA---CTATCAATAGGCGCTGTATTTGCAATCATAGGAGGCTTTGTTCACTGATTTCCCCTGTTCACAGGTTACTTACTTAATGATCTATGAGCAAAAATTCAATTCTCTATCATATTCGTAGGCGTTAATATAACATTCTTCCCACAACACTTCCTAGGCCTATCAGGTATGCCACGG---CGCTACTCTGACTATCCAGATGCATACACA---GCATGAAACGTACTTTCATCTATCGGCTCATTTATCTCACTAACGGCTGTAATTCTAATGATCTTTATCGTTTGAGAAGCCTTCGCATCCAAACGAGAAGTG---TCTACTGTAGAACTGTCTACAACAAAC
-- end --

Download FASTA File

Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)

© Barcode of Life Data Systems

Source: Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD)

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Myrmecobius fasciatus

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 2
Specimens with Barcodes: 2
Species With Barcodes: 1
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)

© Barcode of Life Data Systems

Source: Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLD)

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Conservation

Conservation Status

Numbats are currently listed by the IUCN Red List and the US Fish & Wildlife Service as an endangered species. Decreasing in population by more than 20% within a short five years (between the years 2003 and 2008), numbat populations contain approximately less than 1,000 mature individuals globally. There are two native sites of the species, Dryanda and Perup of Western Australia. In Dryanda, populations have and continue to decrease dramatically for unknown reasons, declining from an estimated peak of 600 in 1992 to 50 in 2012 today. In Perup, populations are stable and possibly increasing in number. In reintroduced sites, there are 500 to 600 numbat individuals and populations seem stable; however, they are not self-sustaining and, thus, are not considered secure.

The introduction of several predators, specifically red foxes and raptors, have greatly added to the decline in numbat populations. The introduction of rabbits and rats may also have increased the number of feral cats in the habitat, which are another major predator of numbats. In addition to the increase in predators, changed fire regimes and habitat destruction in some areas have reduced the number of logs, which numbats use as shelter for resting, refugees from predators, and as a source of termites (the base of their diet).

A number of conservation actions have been taken. These include captive breeding, reintroduction programs, protected areas, and red fox control programs. Other objectives for recovery, as listed by Maxwell et al. (1996), are also being implemented, such as trying to increase the number of self-sustaining populations to at least nine and the number of individuals to over 4,000.

US Federal List: endangered

CITES: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: endangered

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
EN
Endangered

Red List Criteria
C1+2a(i)

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2008

Assessor/s
Friend, T. & Burbidge, A.

Reviewer/s
Lamoreux, J. & Hilton-Taylor, C. (Global Mammal Assessment Team)

Contributor/s

Justification
Listed as Endangered because there are probably less than 1,000 mature individuals, and the population has undergone a drastic, continuing decline at Dryandra (one of the two native sites for the species), the reasons for which are not understood. The populations at Perup are stable (possibly increasing), and stable, though probably not self-sustaining, at the reintroduced sites. Overall the populations are estimated to have decreased by more than 20% in the last 5 years.

History
  • 1996
    Vulnerable
  • 1994
    Endangered
    (Groombridge 1994)
  • 1990
    Endangered
    (IUCN 1990)
  • 1988
    Endangered
    (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1988)
  • 1986
    Endangered
    (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1986)
  • 1982
    Endangered
    (Thornback and Jenkins 1982)
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources

Source: IUCN

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Current Listing Status Summary

Status: Endangered
Date Listed: 12/02/1970
Lead Region: Foreign (Region 10) 
Where Listed: Australia


Population detail:

Population location: Australia
Listing status: E

For most current information and documents related to the conservation status and management of Myrmecobius fasciatus , see its USFWS Species Profile

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Status

Classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (1), and Vulnerable under the EPBC Act 1999 (3).
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© Wildscreen

Source: ARKive

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Population

Population
The global population is probably under 1,000. The population at Dryandra has declined drastically, from an estimated peak of approximately 600 in 1992 to 50 today (carrying capacity at the site may be about 300). There have been no declines in Perup (where the habitat is different), and possibly some increase. There are 500-600 reintroduced within the reserves, but none of these is yet considered secure.

Population Trend
Decreasing
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources

Source: IUCN

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Threats

Major Threats
The introduction of the predatory red fox has had a profound impact and continues to be a major threat today (Friend 2008). Changed fire regimes, especially in arid grasslands and habitat destruction in some areas is a concern (Maxwell et al. 1996). Introduced rabbits and raptors (native species whose numbers are overly elevated in fragmented woodlands) are also threats. Frequent fires can be a threat due to the reduction in the number of logs, which the species uses as shelter. The causes of the declines at Dryandra are unknown; fox control may have increased the number of feral cats in the region; the concentration of raptors may also be a problem.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources

Source: IUCN

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

The numbat's populations have dramatically suffered from predation by introduced mammals such as the cat and red fox (Vulpes vulpes) (4) (7), and the clearing of the land for agriculture. This removes dead and fallen trees which numbats need for shelter and termites need for resources (4). Another factor could be the suppression of Aboriginal fire regimes, after the movement of Aboriginal people away from their traditional lands following the European settlement of Australia. Aboriginal fires were small and controlled, allowing regeneration each year and reducing the incidence of larger bush fires in the hot summer. Now these large bush fires are a greater threat and more widespread, causing extensive damage to the numbats' habitat, shelter and food sources (4) (6).
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© Wildscreen

Source: ARKive

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
The Numbat is listed as a threatened species under Australian law. Both of areas where the species occurs naturally as well as the reintroduction sites are protected areas. A recovery plan was prepared and is being implemented (Friend 1994).

In 1985 this species was only known from Dryandra and Perup, but captive breeding and reintroduction programs have greatly helped to reduce the risk to this species (Friend 2008). Fox control programs are seen as essential to the recovery of this species. Objectives for recovering listed by Maxwell et al. (1996) included increasing the number of self-sustaining populations to at least nine and the number of animals to over 4,000. This has not been achieved however, and with the current, mysterious decline at Dryandra, the Numbat is still highly threatened.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources

Source: IUCN

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Conservation

The numbat is Western Australia's mammal emblem, a status which gives it widespread recognition and may well have saved it from extinction (4). Following the numbat's decline, this species has been listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List (1), and Vulnerable on the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) (3). Active intervention by the Australian Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) has fortunately improved the numbat's chances of survival. DEC has implemented fox control in the areas where numbats are found, and is establishing new populations in various nature reserves and forests (5). Conservation programs are also re-introducing the numbat to areas from which they have disappeared, and are radio-tracking individuals to monitor their fate (8). Regular fox baiting is also carried out at Perup, Dryandra and at re-introduction sites and numbats are currently being bred for release at Perth Zoo (4) (7). The numbat's habitat is said to be secure at present, though this species will certainly need constant protection and continued re-introductions in order to recover (5) (8).
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© Wildscreen

Source: ARKive

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

There are no known adverse effects of numbats on humans.

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

When numbats used to flourish throughout Southern Australia, parts of Western Australia, and the Northern Territory, Aboriginal natives hunted them for food. Known to these people as the "walpurti," numbats were captured by being chased into burrows and then dug up by hand in order to eat. However, due to the dramatic decrease in numbat populations, numbat are now a protected species that has become of great importance to scientists and environmental program agencies. By studying numbats, scientists are gaining a greater understanding of several different aspects of mammalogy, such as morphology, physiology, and ecology. A collection of up to two hundred specimens of numbats can be found in museums. This not only aids scientists in their research, but also benefits future generations that are interested in this species as well as mammals in general. Environmental program agencies have also benefited from numbats. Necessitating intensive work for over twenty years, a number of environmental program agencies, which were founded to save the numbats from extinction, have been provided long-term support for their recovery programs allowing program longevity. In addition to once being important to the Aboriginal people and currently to scientists and environmental program agencies, numbats assist in the control of the termite population in eucalypt woodlands, eating approximately 15,000 to 20,000 termites per day.

Positive Impacts: food ; research and education; controls pest population

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Wikipedia

Numbat

Numbat!<-- This template has to be "warmed up" before it can be used, for some reason -->

The Numbat (Myrmecobius fasciatus), also known as the Banded Ant Eater, is a marsupial found in Western Australia. Its diet consists almost exclusively of termites. Once widespread across southern Australia, the range is now restricted to several small colonies and it is listed as an endangered species. The Numbat is an emblem of Western Australia and protected by conservation programs.

Contents

Description

The Numbat genus Myrmecobius is the sole member of the family Myrmecobiidae; one of the three families that make up the order Dasyuromorphia, the generalised marsupial carnivores. The species is also known as the walpurti.

The Numbat is a small, colourful creature between 35 and 45 cm (13-18") long, with a finely pointed muzzle and a prominent, bushy tail about the same length as its body. Colour varies considerably, from soft grey to reddish-brown, often with an area of brick red on the upper back, and always with a conspicuous black stripe running from the tip of the muzzle through the eyes to the bases of the small, round-tipped ears. The underside is cream or light grey; weight varies between 280 and 550 grams.[2]

Unlike most other marsupials, the Numbat is diurnal, largely because of the constraints of having a specialised diet without having the usual physical equipment for it. Most ecosystems with a generous supply of termites have a fairly large creature with a very long, thin, sticky tongue for penetrating termite colonies, and powerful forelimbs with heavy claws.[3] Like other mammals that eat termites or ants, the Numbat has a degenerate jaw with non-functional teeth, and is unable to chew. Nonetheless, numbats do have a similar dental formula to many other marsupials: Upper: 4.1.3-4.4, lower: 3.1.4-5.4

The species is not closely related to other extant marsupials; the current arrangement in the Dasyuromorphia order places its monotypic family with the diverse and carnivorous species of Dasyuridae. A closer affinity with the extinct thylacine, contained in the same order, has been proposed.

Diet

Numbats are insectivores and eat an exclusive diet of termites. An adult Numbat requires up to 20,000 termites each day. The only marsupial that is fully active by day, the Numbat spends most of its time searching for termites. It digs up termites from loose earth with its front claws and captures them with its long sticky tongue. [4]

Ecology and behaviour

Adult numbat at Perth Zoo

Adult Numbats are solitary and territorial; an individual male or female establishes a territory of up to 1.5 square kilometres (370 acres)[3] early in life, and defends it from others of the same sex. The animal generally remains within that territory from that time on; male and female territories overlap, and in the breeding season males will venture outside their normal home range to find mates.

While the Numbat has relatively powerful claws for its size,[3] it is not strong enough to get at termites inside their concrete-like mound, and so must wait until the termites are active. It uses a well-developed sense of smell to locate the shallow and unfortified underground galleries that termites construct between the nest and their feeding sites; these are usually only a short distance below the surface of the soil, and vulnerable to the Numbat's digging claws.

The Numbat synchronises its day with termite activity, which is temperature dependent: in winter, it feeds from mid-morning to mid-afternoon; in summer, it rises earlier, takes shelter during the heat of the day, and feeds again in the late afternoon. Despite its Banded Anteater name, ants are not a major component of their diet.

At night, the Numbat retreats to a nest, which can be in a hollow log or tree, or in a burrow, typically a narrow shaft 1-2 metres long which terminates in a spherical chamber lined with soft plant material: grass, leaves, flowers and shredded bark. The Numbat is able to block the opening of its nest, with the thick hide of its rump, to prevent a predator being able to access the burrow.[5]

Conservation status

Trap set to monitor the wild population in the Dryandra Woodland

Until European colonisation, the Numbat was found across most of the area from the New South Wales and Victorian borders west to the Indian Ocean, and as far north as the southwest corner of the Northern Territory. It was at home in a wide range of woodland and semi-arid habitats. The deliberate release of the European red fox in the 19th century, however, wiped out the entire Numbat population in Victoria, NSW, South Australia and the Northern Territory, and almost all Numbats in Western Australia as well. By the late 1970s, the population was well under 1,000 individuals, concentrated in two small areas not far from Perth, Dryandra and Perup.

The first record of the species described it as beautiful;[6] its appeal saw it selected as the faunal emblem of the state of Western Australia and initiated efforts to conserve it from extinction.[5]

It appears that the reason the two small Western Australia populations were able to survive is that both areas have many hollow logs that may serve as refuge from predators. Being diurnal, the Numbat is much more vulnerable to predation than most other marsupials of a similar size: its natural predators include the Little Eagle, Brown Goshawk, Collared Sparrowhawk and Carpet Python. When the Western Australia government instituted an experimental program of fox baiting at Dryandra (one of the two remaining sites), Numbat sightings increased by a factor of 40.

An intensive research and conservation program since 1980 has succeeded in increasing the Numbat population substantially, and reintroductions to fox-free areas have begun. Perth Zoo is very closely involved in breeding this native species in captivity for release into the wild. Despite the encouraging degree of success so far, the Numbat remains at considerable risk of extinction and is classified as an endangered species.[1]

Discovery

The Numbat first became known to Europeans in 1831. It was discovered by an exploration party who were exploring the Avon Valley under the leadership of Robert Dale. George Fletcher Moore, who was a member of the expedition, recounted the discovery thus:

"Saw a beautiful animal; but, as it escaped into the hollow of a tree, could not ascertain whether it was a species of squirrel, weasel, or wild cat..."

and the following day

"chased another little animal, such as had escaped from us yesterday, into a hollow tree, where we captured it; from the length of its tongue, and other circumstances, we conjecture that it is an ant-eater—its colour yellowish, barred with black and white streaks across the hinder part of the back; its length about twelve inches."[6]

The first classification of specimens was published by George Robert Waterhouse, describing the species in 1836 and the family in 1841. Myrmecobius fasciatus was included in the first part of John Gould's The Mammals of Australia, issued in 1845, with a plate by H. C. Richter illustrating the species.

See also

References

  1. ^ a b Friend, T. & Burbidge, A. (2008). Myrmecobius fasciatus. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 08 October 2008. Listed as Endangered(EN C1+2a(i) v3.1)
  2. ^ Ellis, Eric (2003). "Myrmecobius fasciatus". http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Myrmecobius_fasciatus.html. Retrieved 2006-09-01. 
  3. ^ a b c Lee, A.K. (1984). Macdonald, D.. ed. The Encyclopedia of Mammals. New York: Facts on File. pp. 844. ISBN 0-87196-871-1. 
  4. ^ http://www.perthzoo.wa.gov.au/en/Animals--Plants/Australia/Australian-Bushwalk/Numbat/
  5. ^ a b "What is the fauna emblem of Western Australia?". NatureBase. Western Australia's Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC). http://www.naturebase.net/component/option,com_kb/page,articles/articleid,13/. Retrieved 2009-05-11. 
  6. ^ a b Moore, George Fletcher (1884). Diary of ten years. London: M. Walbrook. 
Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Source: Wikipedia

Unreviewed

Article rating from 0 people

Default rating: 2.5 of 5

Disclaimer

EOL content is automatically assembled from many different content providers. As a result, from time to time you may find pages on EOL that are confusing.

To request an improvement, please leave a comment on the page. Thank you!