Species: Numbat (Myrmecobius fasciatus)
Status: Endangered (EN)
Interesting Fact: The numbat can eat around 20,000 termites a day. That’s 10% of its body weight!
This small, carnivorous marsupial is an expert termite hunter. It spends its day in search of its favourite prey, walking with its nose to the ground, sniffing and turning over small pieces of wood in search of shallow underground termite galleries. It then collects the termites with its long, sticky tongue, which can grow to over 10 centimetres in length. 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. Unusually for a marsupial, the numbat does not have a pouch and instead the young attach themselves to one of the female’s four nipples, where they are protected by the long underbelly fur.
The numbat’s population has dramatically decreased due to predation by introduced mammals, such as the cat and red fox, with this species now believed to be extinct from 99% of its former range. The clearing of land for agriculture is also a problem as it removes dead and fallen trees which numbats need for shelter and termites need for resources. Current conservation actions include the captive breeding of this species for reintroduction and the removal of non-native predators.
Find out more about the numbat on the EDGE website.
Becky Moran, ARKive Species Text Author