Beware the frumious numbat and its artifically colored deposits

An experiment with numbats:

Eliminative Behavior of Captive Numbats, Myrmecobius fasciatus (Mammalia; Marsupialia): Pattern and Identification of Fecal Deposits,” Lindsay A. Hogan, Allan T. Lisle, Stephen D. Johnston, Zoo Biology, epub February 5, 2013. The authors, at the University of Queensland, and at the Perth Zoo, report:

“This study examined the spatial defecation patterns of numbats within captivity and tested the efficacy of a food colorant as a fecal marker in this species. Rather than randomly distributing scats throughout their environment, the numbats aggregated their feces at specific sites forming latrines. It is unclear whether the strong inclination for latrine formation was due to this species’ inherent behavior or is a direct result of captivity. Males were found to have a higher daily defecation rate, different defecation time, larger number of latrines, and greater number of scats per quadrant, as compared to females. In this study, the majority of scats were deposited along enclosure boundaries and for both sexes there was a higher probability of latrines being placed along enclosure fencing shared with a female neighbor. The high concentration of latrines along boundaries suggests that they may play a role in territorial defense. The results also indicated that captive numbats tend to choose defecation points away from food and refuge sites. Transit and total retention time of the marker through the GIT was ≤3 hr and between 24 and 27 hr, respectively. A marker dose of 3 gtts feed^(−1) × 2 feeds day^(−1) was required to reach a steady and detectable state of marker output, which enabled accurate identification of individual samples during the breeding season. Reliable labeling was obtained using blue and red colored food dye, and there was no evidence that incorporation of the marker into the diet had any negative effects on food intake.”

(Thanks to investigators Mike Marshall and John Hoyland for bringing this to our attention.)

BONUS: Video of a numbat exhibiting less colorful behavior:


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