There is one living species of Aye-Aye extant today, and that is Daubentonia madagascariensis, as N-Wing so kindly notes. The Malagasy call it Hay-Hay, Ahay and Aiay. The Aye-Aye is native to Madagascar, and is only remotely related to the other lemurs. It is an oddity among Mammalia, and some speculate that it has a closer relationship to the indriids than to lemurs.

Aye-aye forage for their food at night. They eat larvae that they find inside dead trees by tapping the bark and listening for reverberations with their unusually large ears. When they hear a larva scrabbling around inside, they use another unique adaption to bite through the wood: continuously growing incisor teeth, which once made naturalists believe they were rodents. Finally, they reach into the wood with their fantastically long, bony middle finger and coax out the larva.

Aye-Aye live solitary lives in the rainforest of Madagascar. The females give birth every two to three years, and breeding occurs at any time of year. The females are dominant during courtship rituals.

The second, extinct species of Aye-Aye is Daubentonia robusta, a much larger creature. The scant skeletal remains that have been found suggest that it was up to five times larger than the currently living Aye-Aye, which is about the size of a cat. Daubentonia robusta was hunted to extinction by man, and Daubentonia madagascariensis may meet the same fate. It is thought to be a bad omen by the Malagasy. This is understandable (albeit not excusable); after all, read this description of an Aye-Aye from The Aye-aye and I by Gerald Durrell:

"In the gloom it came along the branches towards me, its round, hypnotic eyes blazing, its spoon-like ears turning to and fro like radar dishes, its white whiskers twitching and moving like sensors; its black hands, with their thin fingers, the third seeming terribly elongated, tapping delicately on the branches as it moved along."

Aye"-aye` (?), n. [From the native name, prob. from its cry.] Zool.

A singular nocturnal quadruped, allied to the lemurs, found in Madagascar (Cheiromys Madagascariensis), remarkable for its long fingers, sharp nails, and rodent-like incisor teeth.

 

© Webster 1913.

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