Marvelous Animals from Madagascar: Aye-Aye
by Dani Johnson
August 30, 2013
Above Image: Aye-aye ImageCredit: Frank Vassen Source:flickr; Sourced for this blog in 08/2013. Image is available under theAttribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 GenericLicense.
Aye-aye are weird little creatures that can only be found in the wild in certain parts of Madagascar. They are already a rare species, and they are now "near threatened" and steps are being taken to save them from extinction. Most of what we know about the aye-aye are from the small number that are in captivity. They have a very specialized way of life, so keeping them in captivity is more difficult than other primates, since they need to be in complete darkness for the entire night, and they live in the trees so they need to be completely surrounded to keep them in. They are incredibly inquisitive creatures, and seem to be unafraid of humans - probably because they have almost no natural predators. I'm sure it also has something to do with the advantages of being tree-dwellers, also, since they can quickly gain vertical distance from any ground threat (humans). Check out the little guy in the following video, he is so bravely inquisitive that he walks straight up to the camera and taps on the lens to investigate.
Aye-ayes have a highly specialized diet consisting largely on grub and tree nectar, but varies based on climate and availability. They have been seen eating coconuts, ramy nuts, fungus, seeds litchi, and mango. They live only in the forests of Madagascar and are sometimes preyed upon by the fossa (Cryptoprocta ferox), but are generally safe because they dwell in the tree tops.
Above Image: Aye-aye Credit: Tom Junek Source: flickr; Sourced for this blog in 08/2013. Image is available under the Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Aye-Aye are rare creatures that only exist in the wild in one area, so there is still a lot to learn about these amazing creatures. They are nocturnal, usually staying active between sunset and sunrise. They are generally solitary creatures, but males have occasionally been spotted foraging with as many as 3 other aye-ayes, male or female. Females, however, are aggressive towards other females and do not seem to interact with each other at all.
Aye-aye have no strict mating season, the females have independent reproductive cycles and will go into estrus at different times throughout the year. In captivity, the female's reproductive cycle lasts about 50 days, estrus lasts 3-9 days, and gestation usually lasts a little over 5 months. When a female goes into estrus, she calls out to the males and they gather around her and compete with each other over who gets to mate with her next. She spends about an hour with each male, and when they're done they will groom each other and she will send him off and call for the next in line. The females usually have only 1 baby, and they stay in or close to the nest for about 15 weeks before they start spending most of their time out with the mother. In captivity, young aye-aye are fully independent from their mothers at around 18 months old, but won't gain sexual maturity until 2-4 years old. It isn't known exactly when young aye-aye fully separate from their mothers, but it is likely that it correlates with sexual maturity. Aye-aye have lived well into their 20s in captivity, but their average lifespan in the wild is unknown.
Above Image: Aye-aye Image Credit: amareta kelly Source: flickr; Sourced for this blog in 08/2013. Image is available under the Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic License.
Since the Aye-aye has such a shocking appearance to humans, it has long been regarded as a bad omen, sort of like a black cat but much worse. Some people even believe that aye-aye can predict their death and will kill them on-sight, contributing to the "near threatened" status that is worsened by the fact that aye-ayes were rare to begin with.
Aye-aye are particularly special because they belong to their own genus and family, they are truly one of the most unusual creatures in the world. If you want to help, The EDGE of Existence programme is currently running twelve key conservation projects for some of the world's most extraordinary and unique amphibians and mammals that are receiving little or no conservation attention.
while doing research on the aye-aye, I found this old episode of The Wild Thornberrys from Nickelodeon. I used to watch this show all the time, and it thrilled me to get to watch an episode that is relevant to my research. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did:
by Dani Johnson
@Skeptoid Media, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit