Termite-eating machines; and one of only two marsupials that are strictly diurnal

Helena Bella



Termite-eating machines; and one of only two marsupials that are strictly diurnal

Population <1,000
99% decline from its original range since 1970s

Numbats possess a striking appearance, characterized by their vibrant rusty orange to grey-black fur, accented with a series of white bands that decorate their back. This distinctive patterning makes the numbat a visually appealing species and serves as camouflage, helping them blend into the dappled light of their woodland habitats. The numbat’s diet is highly specialized; they feed almost exclusively on termites. Unlike other termite-eating species that may forage at night, the numbat is diurnal, actively seeking out its prey during the day. This behavior aligns with the activity patterns of termites, allowing numbats to exploit a niche with less competition from nocturnal predators.

One of the numbat’s most remarkable adaptations is its elongated tongue, extending up to 10 centimeters (about 4 inches) beyond its snout. This specialized tool is coated in sticky saliva, enabling the numbat to collect termites from their nests efficiently. A single numbat can consume up to 20,000 termites in a day, playing a crucial role in controlling termite populations and maintaining the health of their ecosystem.

Numbats make their homes in various shelters, including logs, tree hollows, and burrows, which offer protection from predators and the elements. These shelters are vital for their survival, especially considering the numbat’s relatively small size and limited means of defense.

Despite their ecological significance and unique characteristics, numbats face numerous threats that have led to their classification as an Endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Habitat loss, driven by land clearing for agriculture and urban development, has dramatically reduced their living spaces. Additionally, predation by introduced species such as feral cats and foxes has devastated numbat populations. With estimates suggesting fewer than 1,000 individuals remain in the wild, the urgency for targeted conservation actions is evident.


Population est.
Reintroduced: New South Wales
Reintroduced: South Australia
Western Australia

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Terrestrial / Aquatic

Altricial / Precocial

Polygamous / Monogamous

Dimorphic / Monomorphic

Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal

Diet: Carnivore / Herbivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore

Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd

Migratory: Yes / No

Domesticated: Yes / No

Dangerous: Yes / No