Daubentonia madagascariensis (Gmelin, 1788)

Scientist name: 
(Gmelin, 1788)
English: 
Aye-aye
Other english: 
None
French: 
Aye-aye
German: 
Fingertier, Aye-aye
Malagasy: 
Hay-Hay, Ahay, Aiay, Bekapaky (Bemaraha), Karakapaky (Namoroka), Fagnà (Marolambo)

Species

Identification

The aye-aye (Daubentonia madagascariensis) is one of Madagascar’s truly unique flagship species, and the most unusual and distinctive primate on Earth. A medium-sized lemur, with a head-body length of 30–37 cm, a tail length of 44–53 cm, a total length of 74–90 cm, and a body weight of 2.5–2.6 kg (Glander, 1994; Mittermeier et al., 1994; Feistner and Sterling, 1995). The aye-aye is immediately recognizable by its prominent black, highly mobile ears, its long thin fingers and toes, and its long bushy tail. Its overall appearance is a dark grayish-brown. The dorsal coat, including that of the limbs, consists of a dense layer of short, off-white hairs overlaid by a longer, coarser layer of blackish- brown, white-tipped guard hairs, giving the animal a brindled appearance. The tail is darkly colored and its hairs are monochromatic. The ventral coat is similar to the dorsal coat in hair pattern, but not as dense, and turns whiter on the chest, throat and face. The muzzle is short and thinly haired, and the nose is pink. The elongated digits (save for the thumb) bear laterally-compressed, claw-like nails, and the third digit of the hand is particularly unusual, being skeletal in appearance. The incisors are large, rodent-like, and continuously-growing, the only primate with this feature. The mammae are inguinal.

It is very difficult to confuse the aye-aye with any other lemur, unless only the most superficial glimpse of this species is obtained in the forest at night. It is by far the largest fully nocturnal lemur, being more than double the size of Avahi and Lepilemur, and its large eyes shine back very brightly in a flashlight beam. Similarly-sized Eulemur species are sometimes active at night, and may briefly be thought to be aye-ayes. However, they usually move about in groups, do not have the strong eye-shine of the aye-aye, and will be quickly recognized for what they are; usually to the disappointment of the primate-watcher.