YOUR WEEKLY DOSE OF WOWZERS AND WONDER FROM THE NATURAL WORLD
It’s incredible how nature always gives us something new to learn and discover.
We’re only just learning all sorts of new things about this week’s featured creature, the aye-aye, as captive-born aye-ayes grow.
So what makes this tree-top critter so Wowzerful? We can’t quite put our finger on it, but we think you’ll agree.
When you think of lemurs, you probably don’t think of anything like the aye-aye. For years, its combination of odd traits gave scientists trouble when classifying it!
You probably either think it’s weird and adorable or ugly and strange. This is because, in many ways, it looks like a combination of many different animals.
There’s a bushy tail like a squirrel, a body like a raccoon, teeth like a rodent, and big ears like a fox. Then you wrap all those features in wirey hair and give it bulging, beady eyes.
And then there’s the middle finger…
It’s hard to miss, and it’s one of the traits that makes the aye-aye so unique while helping it survive in its treetop home.
It’s super long, thinner than the rest of the aye-aye’s fingers, has a claw on the end, and is ball-jointed.
That means the finger can rotate 360 degrees around!
The aye-aye uses this one-of-a-kind finger much like a woodpecker uses its beak or a bat uses its screech, to locate the aye-aye’s preferred source of food — larva under the bark of trees.
Listening closely with its specialized ears, it taps along the bark of a tree. When it finds a larva under the bark, it bites a hole in the wood and fishes out the grubs with its long finger.
Aye-ayes spend most of their lives alone in the canopy of Madagascar’s rainforests. When it can’t find larva to eat, the aye-aye dines on fruits and nuts.
Sadly, natives to the region believe the aye-aye is a bad omen. Hunting, combined with deforestation, has seen the aye-aye’s native numbers decline.
They take to captivity well, however, and captive-born aye-ayes continue to thrive in places like the Duke Lemur Center in Durham, North Carolina. Scientists believe this bodes well for the future of this truly bizarre creature.
The aye-aye is also the only primate known to use echolocation to find its prey.
When fleeing captors or predators, aye-ayes make a sound that sounds like “hai-hai.” Some believe this to be the origin of its name.
That’s a mouthful! Aye-aye’s incisors never stop growing. This ensures aye-ayes are always ready to chew through tree bark and find tasty grubs.
Of the 101 distinct lemur species recognized today, the aye-aye has the biggest brain compared to its body size.
Watch conservationists and scientists at Duke Lemur Center teach a baby aye-aye to feed and see its crazy finger in action.