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Monday, April 1, 2013

A is for Aye-Aye

That's right, everybody, today starts the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge!  This is my second year participating in the challenge and I am very excited!  I even have a real theme this year.  You'll figure it out pretty quickly.  Let's get started, shall we?  A is for Aye-Aye!  And no, I'm not talking about a pirate.  I'm talking about a primate! 

The aye-aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis) is a unique primate from Madagascar.  And yeah, they're pretty strange looking, but they're also really cool critters.



Although they don't look like it, they are related to monkeys, apes, and humans.  The aye-aye is nocturnal, explaining it's large eyes.  They spend their days in the trees in a sphere-like nest placed in the fork of a tree. 

The really cool feature of an aye-aye is actually it's hand.  Aye-ayes have developed a skinny, elongated middle finger on both hands which helps them when trying to find prey- primarily insect larvae in trees.  



They use the finger to tap the wood, searching for hollow spots.  Once located, they use their ever-growing teeth (like a beaver) to gnaw open a hole in the wood.  They again use their middle finger and scoop out the larvae.  This whole process is known as percussive foraging.  Aye-ayes are not strictly insectivores, however, and they will also eat fruits, seeds, nectar, and fungi.

They can also use their finger for drinking liquids.  Yes that sounds strange, but the aye-aye will quickly move the finger from the food/liquid source back to the mouth up to 3.3 times per second!  And the hand as a whole is proportionally much larger than usual to help the animal keep a grip on the tree while it is feeding.



Some of you may be asking why you've never heard of or seen such an animal before!  Well, as they are not the cutest critters around they don't get a whole lot of attention.  They are, however, a threatened species in Madagascar.  A lot of that has to do with habitat destruction and the native beliefs that aye-ayes are omens of bad luck and thus they are killed on sight.  The animals are now protected and are known residents in several protected parks within the country.

Many of you have, however, seen this guy on the big screen.  You probably didn't realize it at the time, though.  Maurice from Madagascar, King Julien's aide, is an aye-aye.


He's so happy to be representing aye-ayes the world over!  Yay Maurice!