The Myrmecobiidae contains a single species, the numbat ( Myrmecobius fasciatus).

These marsupials are small to medium in size, weighing 300 to 700 gms, with a pointed head, small ears, and a long, bushy tail. They lack a pouch. Their coat is distinctively banded across the back and rump with transverse dark and white stripes. Large, strong claws are found on all digits. Numbats have a remarkable long and slender tongue, with which they extract termites and ants from their galleries.

The teeth of numbats are relatively small and appear degenerate; nevertheless, they are polyprotodont, with four upper and three lower incisors on each side of their jaws. Following these are upper and lower canines, and behind the canines are a series of molars and premolars that may include extra (supernumerary) teeth. The total number of cheek teeth is usually 7-8 on each side of the upper jaw, 8-9 on each side of the lower. As is true of other dasyuromorphs, numbats are not syndactylous. Cranial characteristics of these peculiar animals include an unusual backward prolongation of the hard palate, reduction in the size and number of palatal vacuities, massive postfrontal processes, and palatal branches of the premaxillae that don't fuse anteriorly.

Numbats often forage during the day.

Numbats are found in southern Australia. Once widespread, they have been reduced to few isolated populations by habitat destruction and predation by the introduced red fox.

Technical characters

Literature and references cited

Feldhamer, G. A., L. C. Drickamer, S. H. Vessey, and J. F. Merritt. 1999. Mammalogy. Adaptation, Diversity, and Ecology. WCB McGraw-Hill, Boston. xii+563pp.

Marshall, L. G. 1984. Monotremes and marsupials. Pp 59-115 in Anderson, S. and J. Knox Jones, eds, Orders and Families of Recent Mammals of the World. John Wiley and Sons, NY. xii+686 pp.

Strahan, R. (ed.). 1995. Mammals of Australia. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C. 756 pp.

Vaughan, T. A. 1986. Mammalogy. Third Edition. Saunders College Publishing, Fort Worth. vi+576 pp.

Vaughan, T. A., J. M. Ryan, N. J. Czaplewski. 2000. Mammalogy. Fourth Edition. Saunders College Publishing, Philadelphia. vii+565pp.


Phil Myers (author), Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.


bilateral symmetry

having body symmetry such that the animal can be divided in one plane into two mirror-image halves. Animals with bilateral symmetry have dorsal and ventral sides, as well as anterior and posterior ends. Synapomorphy of the Bilateria.


uses smells or other chemicals to communicate


animals that use metabolically generated heat to regulate body temperature independently of ambient temperature. Endothermy is a synapomorphy of the Mammalia, although it may have arisen in a (now extinct) synapsid ancestor; the fossil record does not distinguish these possibilities. Convergent in birds.


having the capacity to move from one place to another.


reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female


uses touch to communicate