From: Robin Valinski, ENN
Published September 20, 2013 02:57 PM

Aye-aye, it's unique!

If "unique" is a relative term then this endangered critter has it hands down--or rather, fingers down! The Aye-aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis), once believed to be a rodent is a primate found in the canopy of the forests of Madagascar. This dark brown and black nocturnal animal is a variety of lemur with very special hands featuring one extraordinarily long middle finger with a piercing fingernail at its end. The aye-aye will tap its fingers on hollow branches disturbing resident grubs and listening for movement. Using its naked bat like ears, the aye-aye has excellent hearing and is the only primate known to use echolocation to find its prey.

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The aye-aye then uses its rugged self-sharpening teeth to tear through the hollow branch. The aye-aye has four highly prominent incisor teeth; two on the top and two on the bottom and each pair of incisors are fused together. These natural chisels are excellent tree and branch tunneling tools. The teeth continue to grow throughout the life of the animal.

Once the tree or branch has been penetrated, the aye-aye will then reach in and retrieve its anticipated delicious reward. Each sinewy digit features a ball and socket joint, which can rapidly swivel to grab and extract prey from the newly excavated small hole.

The four-pound aye-aye's bushy tail is between 22 and 24 inches. The tail outsizes its body which is only 14 to17 inches It clings and swings from the branches at night and curls up in a ball during the day amongst a spherical nest of leaves positioned in crooks of branches. They are not particularly social are usually seen in pairs or solo.

The aye-aye will naturally live to be about twenty but is endangered as a result of its fearlessness, loss of habitat to human development, altercations with dogs and surrounding superstitious legacy. It was once believed that when an aye-aye points his finger at you then imminent death is not far away. To break this spell, one would need to immediately kill the aye-aye to prevent the aye-aye's prediction.

Aye-ayes are truly captivating animals though with its many remarkable features.

Read more at: National Geographic and Wired

Photo credit: Artisan Lane

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