Numbat

Numbat

Banded anteater, Walpurti, Marsupial anteater

Kingdom
Phylum
Subphylum
Class
Infraclass
Family
Genus
SPECIES
Myrmecobius fasciatus
Population size
below 1,000
Life Span
5-6 yrs
TOP SPEED
32 km/h
WEIGHT
280-550 g
LENGTH
17.5-27.5 cm

Once widely distributed and common throughout Australia, numbats are currently classified as endangered, occurring in small and scattered populations. This unusual marsupial lacks a pouch. Numbat is a diurnal animal, which plays an important role in the ecosystem of its habitat. In addition, this magnificent and charming animal serves as the emblem of Western Australia.

Distibution

By the time of European settlement, this species was widely distributed throughout Australia, occurring in southern semi-arid and arid Australia as well as most of the southern half of Western Australia. Currently, numbats are represented by 2 survived populations in the south-western Australia, namely, at Perup and Dryandra. In addition, there are 6 self-sustaining re-introduced populations of this species, 4 of which are found in Western Australia, one in South Australia, and another one in New South Wales. Preferred habitat of numbats is eucalyptus forest and woodland with an abundance of wandoo or jarrah trees. Presence of hollow wandoo logs on the ground is an important life condition for these animals, since these logs provide them with reliable shelter and constant source of food (they eat termites, found on wandoo trees).

Numbat habitat map

Geography

Continents
Countries

Climate zones

Habits and Lifestyle

Numbats are generally solitary animals, socializing only when raising their offspring and during the mating seaosn, when a breeding pair lives in a nest. The main source of their food - termites - are active during the daytime hours. For this reason, numbats are also diurnal in order to be able to feed upon termites in the shallow galleries. They typically spend mid-morning and late afternoon feeding and wandering. Meanwhile, in summer and spring, numbats are known to be active for longer periods of time during the day, taking only a short rest during mid-day in their shelters. During autumn and winter, their routine moves slightly: in this period, they are usually active later in the morning, returning to their shelters earlier in the afternoon and then remaining active during mid-day. This flexibility of their habits suggests that numbats try to minimize thermoregulatory costs and derive maximum benefit from the daylight, consuming as many termites as possible.

Diet and Nutrition

The diet of these insectivorous marsupials mainly consists of termites, supplemented with predator ants, which are occasionally found when consuming termites.

Mating Habits

MATING BEHAVIOR
REPRODUCTION SEASON
December-January
PREGNANCY DURATION
14 days
BABY CARRYING
4 pups
INDEPENDENT AGE
12 months
BABY NAME
pup

Numbats have a polygynous mating system, where one male mates with multiple females. They breed in December - January. Gestation period lasts for 14 days, yielding 4 babies, which live attached to their mother's body for the first 6 months of their lives. And when young are so heavy and large, that the female cannot walk with them on her body, she removes the babies, after which they start living in a log or burrow, where the mother regularly visits them, continuing to protect and suckle her offspring, until they are 8 - 9 months old. They spend the following 2 months exploring the environment, coming out of their nest to eat termites and experiencing their first encounters with predators. Finally, at 10 - 11 months old, young numbats are weaned from maternal milk. They leave their mother at 1 year old in order to find territories of their own, forage and breed. Sexual maturity is reached at 1 year old in females and at 2 years old - in males.

Population

Population threats

One of the biggest threats to the population of these endangered animals is increased predation by cats, foxes and other feral predators. Numbats are also exposed to changes in fire regimes. On the other hand, they are threatened from habitat destruction, leading to reduction in numbers of logs: these logs are key livelihood for numbats, providing them with shelters, where they can rest and hide from predators, as well as a constant source of food, since numbats mainly feed upon termites, which are abundant in these logs.

Population number

According to the IUCN Red List, the total population size of Numbats is probably under 1,000 individuals. The population at Dryandra is 50 individuals. In addition, there are 500-600 reintroduced individuals within the reserves. Overall, Numbats’ numbers are decreasing today, and the species is currently classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List.

Ecological niche

One numbat eats as many as 15,000 - 20,000 termites a day, thus controlling termite populations of the area and thus benefiting the local ecosystem.

Fun Facts for Kids

  • When threatened or disturbed, numbat usually flees away to a burrow or log, running at a speed of up to 32 km per hour. Excitement or stress is displayed through arching the tail over the back and erecting the fur.
  • A group of numbats is called a 'colony or cloud', while juveniles of this species are known as 'pups'.
  • Since numbats are not capable of destroying termite mounds, they find out secret entrances, waiting there and catching termites as soon as they appear.
  • These animals are also known as "banded anteaters" due to their color pattern as well as their termite diet.
  • Numbats possess a well-developed sense of smell, which they use when foraging. These animals are able to find underground termite galleries, located up to 50 mm below the surface.
  • Living in extremely dry environment, numbats do not have to drink water, getting all required moisture from their food.

References

1. Numbat Wikipedia article - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Numbat
2. Numbat on The IUCN Red List site - http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/14222/0

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