Aye-aye facts and information. Know Aye-aye diet, habitat, behaviour taxonomy, etc See interesting facts of Aye-aye in our animal facts archive.
Scientific name: Daubentonia madagascariensis
What does it look like? This is the largest of the nocturnal primates. They can grow to 30–37 cm from head to body, with a long tail measuring between 44 and 53 cm. They weigh approximately 2.5 kg when fully grown. It is a rather shaggy looking beast with long black fur grizzled with white and grey. It has an odd head with large luminous eyes and a large pair of cuplike ears. The head is carried on a monkey-like body.
Where does it live? The aye-aye is found only in Madagascar. It is an arboreal animal and is found in the forests on the eastern fringe of the country. It is limited to the northern parts of the island.
The disappearing forests of Madagascar are home to a myriad of strange mammals, one of which is the aye-aye. This peculiar creature mystified zoologists for years as they could not decide what it was. Its head and teeth are rodent-like, and for a long time it was thought to be some manner of giant squirrel. Eventually people realized it was a primate, but it took even more time for people to realize how much of an oddity it was. Perhaps its strangest feature is its hands. The middle finger on each hand is thin and bony and up to three times longer than the other fingers. These modified fingers are the aye-aye’s feeding tools. At night, anywhere between 30 minutes and 3 hours after sunset, the aye-aye leaves its daytime hidey-hole of a nest built in the large fork of a tree. It leaps and clambers from branch to branch with acrobatic ease, its highly sensitive ears moving to and fro, listening for the slightest rustle or stirring that may indicate danger, or the movements of its dinner. It leaps to a branch and homes in on a vanishingly faint scraping coming from within the tree. To confirm its initial suspicions, the primate taps the wood and listens in much the same way as a builder finds cavities in a wall. A distinct hollow sound gives a positive answer to its hunch. Using its large incisors the aye-aye scrapes away the surface bark eventually revealing what seems to be a tunnel. Somewhere in the depths of the branch there is a juicy beetle grub happily gnawing its way through the wood oblivious to the imminent danger. The aye-aye brings its so-called witch’s finger into play and probes the tunnel. The finger is thin and mobile, and like a delicate tool, it can tease the plump grub from its tunnel into the waiting maw of the expectant aye-aye.
The aye-aye is a lemur. The lemurs are a specific type of primate found only on the island of Madagascar. There are 52 living species, although several of the larger species have become extinct due to loss of habitat and hunting. The larger species of lemur are diurnal, while the smaller ones are mostly active during the night. The aye-aye is by far the most bizarre lemur.
There are no woodpeckers in Madagascar, leaving a space in the ecological web for a creature capable of penetrating wood and capturing the larvae of wood boring insects. Behold the aye-aye! Instead of large teeth for gnawing and a bony digit for probing the woodpecker has a sharp beak for hammering and a long tongue for grabbing larvae.
The teeth of the aye-aye are what most confused early naturalists. They grow throughout the life of the animal, like those of a rodent. They must grow continuously as the animal is a feverish gnawer of bark and wood.
Apart from their genitals and their weight, male and female aye-ayes show no sexual dimorphism.
Even a newborn aye-aye has excellent climbing and clinging abilities, which is a must when you emerge into the world 10 m above the ground.
An aye-aye nest is not used permanently. Every few days an individual will build a new one in another large tree fork.
Unlike some other lemurs the aye-aye is predominantly solitary. They only come together purposefully to breed and for the rest of the time they treat each other with disdain. Males protect territories and interlopers in these territories will be met with a frosty reception.
All lemurs are regarded with derision by the natives of Madagascar who share their forest home. They are thought to be evil omens and harbingers of doom. There are a few rare exceptions to these widespread superstitions and some tribes actually believe the lemurs to be bringers of good. Unsurprisingly, the appearance and behavior of the aye-aye afford it the lion’s share of these ill feelings. It is said by some tribes that if an aye-aye points at you with it elongate middle finger you are certain to die very soon. People of the Saklava tribe claim the furtive and evil aye-aye will enter a hut and kill the occupants by puncturing the arteries in the chest using its spindly finger. Due to this very unfortunate bad press, the aye-aye is often killed on sight, even though it is a completely harmless, yet fascinating creature of the night.
The aye-aye is one of the many animals and plants that are threatened by the habitat destruction that continues in Madagascar at an alarming rate. In 1985, only 34 percent of the islands original forest cover remained and only 6 percent of this was protected. Even today, in these more conservation aware times, Madagascar’s wildlife is still under extreme threat. This pressing situation is made even more desperate by the fact that much of Madagascar’s ﬂora and fauna is unique. The chunk of land that today forms the island split from the continent of Africa many millions of year ago. The life it carried with it evolved in isolation forming a selection of unique species.