Friday 28 February 2020

Madagascar's bizarre aye-aye has 6 fingers on each hand, scientists discover

The aye-aye gets weirder.

The aye-aye is one of nature's most fascinatingly bizarre creatures. Native to Madagascar, this lemur is the largest nocturnal primate in the world and has unique features that set it apart. It has bat‐like ears that allow it to echo-locate and rodent-like ever-growing incisors — both unique among primates.

It is most famous for its exceptionally long and skinny fingers. In fact, they are so long that the aye-aye's hand accounts for about 41% of the total length of the forelimb.

The animals also have highly specialized, extremely long third digits — middle fingers if you like — which they use to find food. They "tap" them against wood to generate acoustic reverberations that allow them to find wood‐boring larvae. These are then fished out with exceptional dexterity because the finger can swivel like a shoulder, and it is so thin that the animal habitually rests it on its even longer fourth finger for support.

My colleagues and I recently found yet another unique specialization that sets the aye-aye apart from other primates: a sixth finger on each hand.

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