Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Species of the Day: Aye-aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis)

This strange Lemur hails from the kingdom of the Lemurs, Madagascar. Through the age old belief that the Aye-aye is an omen of death, coupled with recent pressures of deforestation this nocturnal lemur faces extinction. This large lemur fills the niche that a woodpecker would in North America and Europe by using it's specially adapted (elongated) third finger to probe inside trees for juicy grubs. This digit is much longer, thinner and more flexible than the other fingers.

(notice the Rodent-like teeth and thin, elongated 3rd digit)

For years no one knew how to classify the Aye-aye and scientists believed this primate was in fact a rodent! This was due to the Aye-aye's odd appearance and in particular it's large front teeth. These teeth are very efficient at demolishing wood. In fact, the Aye-aye has been known to chew through concrete and aluminum. Another distinguishing of this lemur is that it's nipples are located beside the genitals, rather than on the chest or in the armpits like most primates. Between its teeth, digits and nipples, the Aye-aye is a rather odd primate.

This nocturnal creature spends most of it's nights (upwards of 80%) searching for grubs. To find insect larvae in trees the Aye-aye uses it's specialized third digit to tap on trees, listening for hollow cavities and movement within. When prey has been located the Aye-aye chews a hole to expose the cavity and probes inside with it's long 3rd digit. This digit is then used to extract the tasty morsel. Here is a video that shows how the Aye-aye catches it's larval prey:

The Madagascar Fauna Group (MFG) is one of many organizations working to save the many endemic and globally unique species of Madagascar. Check out their website for more information about Lemur and other animal/environmental conservation actions taking place now.

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