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numbat

numbat (nŭm´băt), small marsupial, of SW Australia, also known as the marsupial anteater. The numbat, Myrmecobius fasciatus, resembles a squirrel in size and general appearance, but is adapted for eating insects, with a pointed snout and a long, cylindrical tongue covered with a sticky secretion. The body is brown with white transverse stripes and the tail is bushy. The numbat lives in eucalyptus forests and feeds chiefly on termites, which it finds in fallen branches and under litter. It sleeps by night in a den in a hollow log. Like other marsupials, numbats give birth to very undeveloped young, which crawl to the mother's teats and remain attached to them for several months; unlike most marsupials, however, numbats do not have pouches surrounding the teats. Numbats are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Marsupialia, family Dasyuridae.

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Myrmecobiidae

Myrmecobiidae (superfamily Dasyuroidea, order Dasyuromorphia) A monospecific family (Myrmecobius fasciatus), the numbat or banded ant-eater, which has up to 52 teeth, an elongated snout, no cheek pouch, and feeds on ants and termites. It is distributed in open forest and scrub habitats in western and southern Australia.

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numbat

numbat (banded anteater) Squirrel-like Australian marsupial that feeds on termites. The female, unlike most marsupials, has no pouch. The numbat has a long snout and lateral white bands on its red-brown coat. Length: 46cm (18in). Species Myrmecobius fasciatus.

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Myrmecobius fasciatus

Myrmecobius fasciatus (banded ant-eater, numbat) See MYRMECOBIIDAE.

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numbat

numbat (Myrmecobius fasciatus) See MYRMECOBIIDAE.

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numbat

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Numbat

Numbat

Numbats are the sole members of the family Myrmecobiidae. "Mumbat" is the aborigine name for these small marsupial mammals , otherwise known as banded anteaters . They are slightly larger than rats and weigh about 1 lb (0.5 kg). Considered one of the most attractive marsupials , their general color varies from grayish-brown to reddish-brown, broken by several prominent white bars across the back and rump. A white-bordered dark stripe passes from the base of each ear through the eye to the snout. The tail length is about 7 in (17.7 cm), and when it is erect and fluffed it looks like a bottle brush.

Numbats are active only in the daytime, and live in shrub woodland and eucalyptus forest. They search fallen branches and logs for termites , which they pick up with their slender, cylindrical 4 in (10 cm) tongue. Although numbats do not chew their food, their small and widely spaced teeth number between 50 and 52, the largest number of teeth found in any marsupial. Numbats use hollow logs for shelter throughout the year and may dig burrows in the ground to take refuge from the cold. They are solitary for most of the year except when breeding or young are present. Generally, four young are born between January and May, attaching themselves to the nipples of the female, who lacks the typical marsupial pouch.

Numbats were much more widespread in the past, and now occur only in the southwest portion of western Australia . Destruction of their habitat for agriculture and predation by introduced foxes has contributed to their decline. Despite stabilization of their habitat, numbat populations are currently small and scattered. Because they are considered rare and endangered, breeding colonies have been established with the hope of returning captive-bred animals to the wild.

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Numbat

Numbat

Myrmecobius fasciatus

phylum: Chordata

class: Mammalia

order: Marsupialia

family: Myrmecobiidae

status: Vulnerable, IUCN Endangered, ESA

range: Australia

Description and biology

The numbat, also known as the banded anteater, is a very unusual Australian marsupial. Marsupials are an order of mammals whose young continue to develop after birth in a pouch on the outside of the mother's body. Most marsupials are nocturnal (active at night). The numbat, however, does not have a true pouch in which its young develop and it is diurnal (pronounced die-ER-nal; active during the day).

Resembling a squirrel in size, an average numbat has a head and body length of 9 inches (23 centimeters) and a tail length of 7 inches (18 centimeters). It weighs between 14 and 21 ounces (397 and 595 grams). The numbat's coat is reddish brown with white flecks. A series of white stripes stretches across its back all the way to its bushy tail. A dark stripe runs across the animal's eye from its ear to its long, flattened snout.

The numbat feeds chiefly on termites. It uses its sharp-clawed forefeet to dig into termite colonies it finds in fallen

branches. It then uses its long, sticky tongue to remove the termites, which it swallows whole. The animal has a home range of 50 to 120 acres (20 to 48 hectares). At night, it builds a sheltering nest of leaves, grass, and bark in hollow logs or in burrows it digs for itself.

The normally solitary male and female numbat come together only to mate. A female numbat gives birth to four young, usually in January or February. Since she does not have a pouch, her young attach themselves to her nipples and cling to the surrounding hair. They stay attached for six months. Afterward, the female places her young in various nests she has built, moving them between those nests by carrying them on her back. The young numbats eventually leave their mother's home range by November or December.

Habitat and current distribution

Numbats prefer to live in forests dominated by eucalyptus trees that are prone to attack by termites. The animals are currently found only in southwestern Western Australia. Biologists (people who study living organisms) estimate that less than 2,000 numbats exist in the wild.

History and conservation measures

The numbat once ranged throughout southern Australia. Slowly it began to disappear from eastern areas until, by the 1960s, it was found only in the southwestern region of the country. The numbat population continued to decline until 1980, when the Australian government realized that red foxes that had been introduced into numbat habitat were preying on the animals. Since then, the government has controlled the number of foxes in the region and the numbat population has recovered slightly. The Australian government is also trying to relocate numbats to their former eastern habitats.

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