ANIMAL ART OF THE DAY for World Numbat Day: Europe’s first published images
Happy World Numbat Day, celebrated annually on the 1st Saturday in November!
A numbat at the the Perth Zoo, which runs the species’ only conservation breeding program. [ Image via Wikimedia Commons CC BY 3.0]
numbat (, also known as the banded anteater, is an unusual marsupial endemic to southern Australia. It is the sole extant member of an entire family (Myrmecobiidae); it only eats termites (up to 20,000 a day!); it is one of only Myrmecobius fasciatus) two strictly diurnal marsupials; and it is pouchless!
Yes, those four little balls are babies. Numbats don’t have pouches, just a skin fold and some guard hairs.
The numbat is also the
official state animal emblem of Western Australia…and, unfortunately, is also an endangered species. Find out more about numbat conservation efforts via Project Numbat.
The first recorded European encounter with a numbat is from 1831, as described
in the diary of George Fletcher Moore. Its first formal scientific description followed in 1836, accompanied by its first published image. See it and other 19th-century plates in the gallery below!
1836 Plate XXVII from Transactions of the Zoological Society of London Vol. 2 illustration accompanying George Robert Waterhouse’s first scientific description of the Numbat as Myrmecobius fasciatus https://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/page/12865657
1836 Plate XXVIII from Transactions of the Zoological Society of London Vol. 2 additional sketches accompanying George Robert Waterhouse’s first scientific description of the Numbat as Myrmecobius fasciatus https://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/page/12865657
1841 Plate 11 in The Naturalist’s Library: Mammalia: Vol. XI: Marsupialia or Pouched Animals, by G. R. Waterhouse (series editor William Jardine) illustration by “Dickes” (probably William Dickes) and engraving by W.H. Lizars (but the hand-coloring was often done by uncredited women) https://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/item/260683
1843 Plate 16 in Die Säugthiere in Abbildungen nach der Natur, mit Beschreibungen by Johann Christian Daniel Schreber https://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/page/31064808
1845 Plate 4 in The Mammals of Australia by John Gould art is credited to J. Gould & H. C. Richter, but Richter was working off art left behind by Elizabeth Gould too, who wasn’t credited (she died in 1841, early during the project)
n.d. (after 1836 – before 1881) loose plate from an unknown source, from the Iconographia Zoologica collection (Special Collections University of Amsterdam); note in corner suggests it may be from a post-1836 edition of H. R. Schinz’s Naturgeschichte und Abbildungen der Menschen und der Säugethiere https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Myrmecobius_fasciatus_- 1700-1880– Print– Iconographia_Zoologica– Special_Collections_University_of_Amsterdam-_UBA01_IZ20300168.tif
1896 Plate XXX in A hand-book to the marsupialia and monotremata by Richard Lydekker plate is lifted from The Naturalist’s Library 1841, compare to previous image https://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/page/15044010