Animal of the Day: Aye-Aye

In my quest for ever-more charming and unusual creatures, I came across the shy, nocturnal Aye-Aye, a rare primate found only on the island of Madagascar.

Aye-aye_2 My first thought upon seeing this small, slightly deranged-looking creature was “Julien”!  Yes, Julien the “king” from Madagascar I and II, the animated films, portrayed memorably by Sacha Baron Cohen (otherwise known as Borat).

However, Julien is not supposed to be an Aye-Aye.  Technically, Julien is supposed to be a ringtailed lemur, and his small partner Maurice is the Aye-Aye.

Aye-Ayes, in addition to their somewhat Gollum-like looks, have very long, flexible middle fingers on their already long-fingered hands.  These fingers are used to retrieve insects from trees, which are their primary food.  The Aye-Aye is adapted to seeking insects at night underneath the bark of the forest trees that they live in.  Perhaps because of their odd, large, vaguely insane-looking eyes, the Aye-Aye was considered bad luck by the natives of Madagascar, and was hunted to endangerment until more recent years and efforts to protect and renew the species.

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Here are Maurice and Julien.  Aye-Ayes might have gotten some help by being featured in such a popular cartoon.  I think that they should be protected, no matter what.

It’s hard to tell from the real Aye-Aye picture, but the Aye-Aye’s tail is long, thick and bigger than its body.  Here is an interesting older link to a brief commentary and good picture of an Aye-Aye.  The Aye-Aye branched off from the primate line about 60 million years ago, and is highly specialized for its nocturnal, insect-eating lifestyle.

More in-depth information on the Aye-Aye is available at the National Primate Research Center’s Info Net at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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Animal of the Day: Aye-Aye — 3 Comments

  1. The Aye-aye in this picture looks very bald, compared to the one at the Wild Ones! It’s hard to imagine this one having a fluffy tail… Thanks, I enjoyed this post!