Thursday, June 5, 2008
The Aye-aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis) is a strepsirrhine native to Madagascar that combines rodent-like teeth with a long, thin middle finger to fill the same ecological niche as a woodpecker.
It is the world's largest nocturnal primate, and is characterized by its unique method of finding food; it taps on trees to find grubs, then gnaws holes in the wood and inserts its elongated middle finger to pull the grubs out.
The Aye-aye begins foraging anywhere between 30 minutes before or 3 hours after sunset. Up to 80% of the night is spent foraging in the canopy, separated by occasional rest periods.
The monkey-like body of the Aye-aye enables it to move vertically with ease. It climbs trees by making successive vertical leaps, much like a squirrel. Horizontal movement is more difficult, but the Aye-aye rarely descends to jump to another tree, and can often cross up to 4 kilometers a night.
Infants are fully dextrous within a month of birth. At first they can only climb on a branch hanging upside down, but they gradually work their way up to the various acrobatic feats that adults can perform. Curiously, walking and running on the ground is often hardest for an Aye-aye to master.