Feeding ecology and diet

Numbats are highly specialized with a diet that consists almost entirely of termites, although some ants are taken incidentally. Numbats sniff out underground termite galleries and expose termites by digging small holes and turning over sticks and branches. They have extremely sharp claws that they use for digging but the forelimbs are not especially strong. The long, slender tongue is inserted deep into the winding termite galleries and withdrawn rapidly, insects adhering to saliva on the tongue. Numbats have very large salivary glands to supply the prodigious quantities of saliva required for this mode of feeding. The molar teeth are simple in structure with three almost equal cusps and the number can vary in individuals, and also from side to side in the same individual, suggesting that the molars receive light use. Unlike other mammalian anteaters, numbats show no obvious specializations for termite-eating in the stomach.

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